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Full text of "Old violins and violin lore. Famous makers of Cremona and Brescia, and of England, France, and Germany (with biographical dictionary); famous players; and chapters on varnish, strings and bows"

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Milton Blackston 


Music and Musical Hook* 

LONDON. W.C. 2. 



1'rnin tin' ////, of tin- nrti*t. 

















Printed by 

The New Temple Press, 
Norlniry Crescent, London, S.W.16. 



PRELUDE . . . . .7 

I. VIOLIN GENESIS . , . .15 



V. VIOLINS AT CREMONA (continued) . . 60 




IX. VIOLIN VARNISH . . . .146 

X. VIOLIN STRINGS , . , .153 

XI. VIOLIN Bows . . . ,161 





POSTLUDE . . . . . .237 






WHAT is the secret of the violin? Why is it that 
when a greas, violinist appears all the other soloists 
have to take a back seat ? 

The answer is: the fascination of the violin is the 
fascination of the soul unveiled. 

No instrument the human voice hardly excepted 
provides such a rare vehicle for the emotions is in such 
close touch with the molecular vibrations of thought 
and with the psychic waves of feeling. But whilst the 
violin equals the voice in sensibility and expression, ib 
far transcends it in compass, variety, and durability. 

Consider the singular completeness and perfection of 
this instrument as a sort of physical and vibratory 
counterpart of the soul. The four strings no doubt 
limit and define its compass, and only in the quartet 
and collectively, is it capable of extended effects of 
complex harmony ; but as a tone-producing instrument 
and within its limits it is perfect every gradation of 
sound between tone and semitone is attainable, and for 
no other instrument can this be claimed. 



Next I observe that the violin possesses a trinity in 
unity of power which invests it with a quite singular 
and felicitous completeness of its own : 

(1) Accent and in staccato passages almost the 
accent of percussion. 

(2) Sustained sound to a degree far beyond the 
capabilities of the human voice, 

(3) Modified tone and in such refinement of grada- 
tion, that the melting lines of the spectrum, can alone 
supply us with a parallel or analogy. 

Your piano possesses accent, but once strike a note, 
soft or loud, and it passes beyond your control. 

The piano has little sustained and no modified tone. 

Your organ has accent and sustained tone, but in a 
very imperfect sense modified tone ; and a brief survey 
of all musical instruments now in use will convince the 
student of acoustics that nowhere but in the violin do 
we find to anything like the same degree, that trinity in 
unity of power summed up in accent , sustained sound, 
modified tone. 

But the half has not yet been revealed. The trinity 
of power in the violin is placed under the immediate 
control of two hands of ten fingers, each hand func- 
tioning differently. The hand on the finger-board is 
engaged in pressing the strings ; the other hand wields 
the bow, and not only sets the strings in vibration, 
but drives, tears, plunges, caresses, checks, prolongs, 
magnetises and regulates, in an altogether marvellous 
fashion, the outpourings of sound, which are in reality 
the outpourings of the musician's soul, and further : 


Has it ever occurred to you, my reader, how diffe- 
rently the same piece of musie, or, for the matter of 
that, the same violin, sounds in the hands of two 
different players? 

A few of Paganini's solos were written down, and 
Sivori, who passed as his only pupil, was in the habit of 
playing some of them ; yet no one was ever wrought 
to frenzy or melted into a passion of tears by that 
elegant performer. I have often heard him. The 
gentlemen in the orchestra remained calm, and listened 
with admiration and approval But when Paganini 
played, the drummer on one occasion so shook with 
excitement that he was utterly incapable of playing his 
part at all, and Professor Ella, then a violinist at the 
first desk, went up and did it for him, whilst the other 
violinists were so lost in wonder that they could hardly 
concentrate their attention sufficiently to come in at 

When Paganini raised his bow on high, it came 
down on his four strings with a crash. What made it 
sound like thunder ? It was the thunder in his soul ! 
When his violin wailed with sweetness long drawn out, 
why did the tears roll down the faces of hardened 
orchestral veterans, and even great virtuosi like Lindley 
and Dragonetti ? Why did the people just go off into 
fits of laughter when a comic vein seized the prodigious 
Maestro in the midst of his variations on the Carnival 
cle Venise ? 

I have heard Wieniawski play his since much 
hackneyed "Legende" it may have been somewhere 


*n the sixties. I never heard anything so weird spirit 
voices in the twilight the wail of lost souls one 
positively saw ghosts. I have heard the " Legende " a 
hundred times since by Neruda, Nachez, Sarasate, and 
I know not how many more, but I have never again 
seen ghosts. 

What was it ? It was the mystery of touch. The 
language of touch is but half understood, but the 
language of touch is the language of soul, and the 
perfection of touch is reached when a sensitive finger 
controls a vibrating string or nerve and sends its own 
psychic thrill along the waves of sound or sensibility. 

The same no doubt is true of the pianoforte touch, 
though in a less degree, because a percussive touch 
can never have the power of a sustained and modified 

Eecent science has thrown some curious sidelights 
upon this same sense of touch. It affirms that the 
trained fingers of the blind actually acquire from 
exercise, practice, and adaptation, new nerve-cells filled 
with grey matter exactly similar to the thinking and 
feeling grey nerve matter of the brain in fact, the 
fingers of the sensitive musician have the power of 
thought and emotion delegated to them; and just as 
thinking matter is not confined to brain cells, but 
extends all down the medulla oblongata, which responds 
to stimulus, even when the head is cut off so we now 
know that brain cells may be acquired, I had almost 
said cerebrated, and used even by the fingers. 

Now, supposing we bring these thinking, pulsating 


finger-tips and wed their subtle pressure to Waves of 
sound, who shall say that these special sound wavei 
may not be so impregnated with brain waves as that 
sound thus charged with soul may convey through the 
auditory nerve to other souls the passion, the emotion, 
the sorrow, the joy, and whatever else is generated in 
the heart and brain of the musician ? 'Tis not more 
inconceivable than thought-reading. 

This goes far to account for the personal fascination 
which players exercise through their art. Their soul 
waves becoming brain waves, float out, charged with 
whatever is in the musician ; and if there is nothing in 
the musician, as not unfrequently happens, they float 
out charged with nothing ! 

The witchery of the violin for collectors is perhaps 
more difficult to explain. Very often these fanciers 
don't play, and still more often they seem to have an 
objection to other people stringing up their treasures 
and playing on them. It is the construction, not so 
much the sound of the violin, that deprives the collector 
of his senses; but we ought to be very thankful to 
these monomaniacs, for without them there would be 
few masterpieces still extant ; through them the violin 
goes into a period of Devachan, or enforced rest. At 
all events, it cannot be worn out, or chipped, or rubbed, 
or trifled with by repairers whilst in the collector's 

All the finest violins are known and carefully stalked 
the health of their owners watched ; and when the 
time comes, they either find their way to the open 


market or are picked up briskly by the great dealers, 
sometimes for fabulous sums. Mr Hill of Bond Street 
thinks nothing of a thousand pounds for a really tine 
specimen of Strad. 

Watch the collector exhibiting his treasures to a 
select company after lunch. You will soon see he is 
not the daft creature whom the uninitiated who only 
want to hear the fiddle are apt to suppose. He knows 
the influence which that old Gasparo or Maggini had 
upon the Cremona school. He marks with admiration 
the emergence of the Amati and Guarnerii from the 
Brescian models ; for him even the quaint long//'s of 
the old makers stand in lovely contrast with the more 
graceful but still pointed sound-holes of Joseph or 
more rounded ones of the great Antonius. To him 
that ancient viola cut down from a larger-sized model 
of viol now extinct, and placed side by side with an 
Amati tenor, is as interesting as the study of com- 
parative anatomy to a scientist. 

Then your collector is never tired of dwelling on the 
perfection of those forms which slowly emerged as the 
survival of the fittest in that exciting quest for the 
sensitiveness, sweetness, and sonority of tone which 
occupied the lifelong meditations of Nicolo Amati and 
Stradivari. Anon he will call your attention excitedly 
and sympathetically to the grace of the curves, the sur- 
face never flat or board-like, but full of a variety of 
levels like the satiny surface of a fine human body. 
You might almost believe that a whole system of musoie 
very living organism lay beneath the " back " and 


belly, which to his eyes are alive with swelling and 
undulating grace ; and then think of the varnish like 
a sheet of thin jasper, at once shielding from decay, 
whilst revealing as years roll on the transparent fila- 
ments of the mottled maple or sycamore and the pine, 
and crossed between the fibres with millions of tiny 
rays which betray the desiccated cells now fit for 
resonance through which the sap once flowed! 

But I must not anticipate matter which more pro- 
perly belongs to violin manufacture. I only wish to 
affirm, in justification of the existence of players, hearers, 
and collectors alike, that the violin charm has its own 

I may perhaps be pardoned if I close this prelude 
with some words which I used before the Eoyal Insti- 
tution in 1872. 

" The violin is perennial. It grows old with its per- 
petual youth. There is no reason why it should ever 
wear out. It sings over the graves of many genera- 
tions. Time, that som 3times robs it of a little varnish, 
has no power over its anointed fabric. 

"The hard durable substance steeped in silicate-like 
varnish has well-nigh turned to stone, but without 
sacrificing a single quality of sweetness or resonance. 

" The violin is the only fossil which still lives, and 
lives with a fulness of life and a freshness that contrasts 
quaintly enough with the fleeting, sickly, and withering 
generations of man. Even should mishap bruise or 
break its beauty it can be endlessly restored. It is 
never fit for death ; it survives a thousand calamities ; 


nay, even when cut up and dismembered, its several 
parts, scattered through a dozen workshops and three 
hundred years, live on with a kind of metempsychosis 
in new forms, and still cling strangely to their indivi- 
duality, so that men taking up a patchwork violin say, 
' It is fine the front is poor, the head is tame, but see 
here is a Stradivarius back ! ' 

" Thus human in its power and pathos, superhuman 
in its immortal fabric, the violin reigns supreme, the 
king and queen of all instruments and, in the handy 
of a Paganini, a Joachim, an Ernst, or a Sarasate, Wie 
joy and wonder of the civilised world. 5 ' 



To me it has always appeared unimportant and not 
very interesting to answer the question, "Were or 
were not the ancients by which we usually mean 
Babylonians, Egyptians, or Greeks and Komans 
acquainted with the fact that stretched strings could 
be set in tonal vibration by means of horse-hair, reed, 
or some other fibre?" They knew most things, and 
how much they knew we are only now beginning to 

At one time we thought that even the Komans did 
not know that water rose to its level, but they were 
well acquainted with the fact. 

We pride ourselves upon the triumphs of modern 
surgery, but we now find that the Egyptians were also 
great surgeons and operated successfully for calculus. 

The wonders of electric telegraphy are doubtless of 
modern origin, but the Greeks were at least aware of 
the attractive properties of amber, which they called 
"Electron," though they made no use of electricity, 
and they may very likely have been acquainted with 
the principle of rubbing, as they certainly were of 
plucking, a string in tension to produce a sound 


without ever elaborating the idea in an instrument for 
musical purposes. 

Both F6tis and Vidal deny that any instrument of 
the viol tribe existed in antiquity, apparently on the 
slender grounds that the few fragments of pottery, 
papyrus, or mural decoration known to us have not 
yet revealed the fact. I think it probable that these 
savants are wrong. Like the use of the wheel, bow 
and arrows, bow and string for drilling holes, the bow 
or something like it employed for musical purposes is 
likely, on a priori grounds alone, to be of immense 
antiquity, and at least as old as the knowledge of 
percussion instruments such as the drum, or of wind 
instruments such as the pan-pipes. 

I don't lay any great stress upon pictures of stringed 
instruments with something like a bridge taken to 
prove the existence of a bow, especially if the bow 
happens to be absent a guitar has a bridge but no 
bow, so has the zither and the bandoline, which are 
plucked with the fingers or a plectrum. The much- 
talked-of Canino Vase (fig. 103, vol. iii. of Micali's 
Storia Degli Antichi Popoli Italiani), showing appa- 
rently a sort of instrument with apparently a sovt 
of bow, has been held by some to be conclusive that 
something like the violin tribe was known to the 
Etruscans. Possibly ! Personally I am not satisfied 
that it is a musical instrument at all which is figured 
on that same vase it might be anything, from a rattle 
or a torch to a broom or a dust-pan. The strongest 
point in its favour as a musical instrument is not the 


rough image on the vase, but the fact that a musician, 
astronomer, and doctor, hy name Chiron, is seated 
beside it. 

We probably see the descendants of any such in- 
struments as may have existed in those times in the 
Kavanastron, which has been recognised by some as 
the oriental precursor of the occidental fiddle. 

Altogether, I think that, from the musical point of 
view, too much time, and a surplus of barren anti- 
quarian lore, have been bestowed on the origin of the 
viol tribe. 

Our business begins not even with the building up 
of the viol out of the Eebek, Crouth, and Kotta (see 
" Music and Morab," p. 382), but with the emergence 
of the violin tenor, violoncello, and double-bass out of 
that confused, tentative, and often grotesque crowd of 
viols and viol da Gambas, specimens of which are 
still exhibited behind glass in our Art Museums and 
Loan Collections. We have little to do with them. 
They are of no more living account than the Egyptian 
mummies in the British Museum. A few retain a 
gleam of practical importance for the violin collector, 
because they have been cut down for tenors or other- 
wise used up during the last three hundred years 
by violin makers: the others remain of interest to 
musicians only; like the bones of fossil crocodiles, 
they are curious studies in the comparative anatomy, 
not of reptiles, but of musical instruments, that 
is all. 

No, it is with the distinct evolution of the violin, by 



which I mean the violin tenor, violoncello, and double- 
bass types, from the nondescript, dusky, tubby, un- 
gainly machines, muffled in sound and dubious in form, 
that for me at least begins the history and the interest 
of the violin tribe. 

The genius of these elect types is inseparably con- 
nected with song sacred song. 

Viols were used in churches to play chants in unison 
with the monks' voices (probably also to assist their 
defective musical ear). When the singing-schools of 
Italy arose and divided the voice into treble, alto, 
tenor, and bass, a suitable viol was told off as the 
companion of each voice. Soon after this the modern 
divisions, the octave and the discovery of the perfect 
cadence, laid the foundation of the art of modern 
music (Monteverde, 1570). The violin emerged. 

The endless discussions as to exactly when the violin 
proper made its appearance, or the tenor proper, or 
when the viol da Gamba got modified into the current 
violoncello size and shape, will probably continue to 
agitate those whose minds have a special aptitude for 
such researches. A very general statement will pro- 
bably satisfy general readers, and even special lovers of 
the violin. 

The name of Duiffoprugcar haunts this dim transition 
period, and although the violins extant under his name 
have all been discredited, and not always distinguished 
from Vuillaume's clever forgeries, I remember one of 
the first judges in Europe, who was certainly quite 
alive to the tricks of the trade, showing me a reputed 

PLATE I (to face page 19y 

A Duiffoprugcar viol da Gamba, owned by Mr George 
Donaldson. This matchless antique is doubtless one of 
many, but most of the rest have perished ; it stands 
almost alone as a poetic specimen of the phantasy of 
the old viol makers. It is elaborately decorated on the 
back, after the taste of the period, with an excess of 
ornament, which the fine instinct of the subsequent 
makers of violins rejected as prejudicial to tone. The 
habit of adopting a creature's head, or a face, for a 
scroll long lingered, and is not unknown in the work of 
Stradivarius. In England numerous copies of Duke 
that have been palmed off as original have lion heads. 
These instruments were usually "made in Germany," 
and it appears to have been a favourite practice there 
to use such carved scrolls. 


Duiffoprugcar (hung and labelled in the South Ken- 
sington Museum), which he then believed to be 
genuine. It had lost the tubby characteristics of the 
viol tribe; it was, in fact, an early Brescian violin, 
linen-lined, but its claim to be a Duiffoprugcar was 

Duiffoprugcar was born in 1514 at Fussen, in the 
Bavarian Tyrol. He was an inlayer and mosaic worker. 
He is now known to have visited Paris, and to have 
worked at Lyons. There is a fine portrait of him 
etched by the engraver Wariot in 1562, and a curious 
viol is extant by Mm, with a map of Paris inlaid at 
the back, once owned by Vuillaume, and within recent 
years secured for the Brussels Conservatoire Museum 
by its intelligent curator, Mr Victor Mahillon. Mr 
Donaldson's beautiful viol da Gamba is the only other 
known specimen of his work. There is no evidence 
that Duiffoprugcar ever made what we should call a 
violin, and very good negative evidence to the con- 
trary. In a curious old print exhibiting his portrait, 
a copy of which is owned by Messrs Hill, amongst the 
various viols represented no such instrument as the 
violin appears. 

It is easy to see how inevitable was the differentia- 
tion of the violin tribe from the first moment that 
a vocal quartet came to be conceived of. First the 
viol is selected to double a part, next a viol is made 
in a modified way to suit the part, and very soon the 
modification assumes the forms and proportions known 
as violin, viola, and violoncello. 


But in the early days of violin genesis the instrument 
was quite subordinate to the voice ; it only gradually 
conquered its independence with the emergence of the 
string trio and string quartet. It would happen 
thus : 

Two people would meet to sing, and the missing 
tenor or bass voice would be supplied by a viola ; or 
three would meet who could not sing at all, when it 
would occur to them that the vocal parts might be 
played instead, and with even more accuracy perhaps 
than the very average voices would attain to. 

The instrumental trio and quartet thus at once came 
into being. 

Next, music would be written independently for such 
combinations, and the voices would be egged out alto- 
gether, and presently the treble or violin would show 
a tendency to throw the others into the shade, and 
at last be thought worthy of a solo all to itself, and 
thus the independent position of the instrument would 
quickly be established. 

All attempts to date exactly the stages of this 
differentiation of the violin tribe are likely to be 

You cannot say exactly when perspective was dis- 
covered or rediscovered by the Italian painters, it 
developed gradually; and so the violin developed 
gradually, born of new musical needs and new musical 

In the midst of the old chaotic world of viol noises 
that preceded it, the struggle to displace the old viol 


players and the slow disappearance of the whole clumsy 
craft is aptly summed up in the words of one who lived 
at the moment of transition. He writes 

" In former days we had viol in 

Ere the true instrument had come about ; 
But now we say, since this all ears doth win, 
The violin hath put the viol out." 



ONE of the subtle charms of the violin is that it may 
be called bisexual. 

It unites in itself and welds together the masculine 
and feminine qualities. 

Its very fabric is bisexual. The soft, easily moved 
vibrations of the swelling front are controlled, checked, 
and yet excited by the slower and harder pulsations 
of the maple back. The porous deal and the close- 
grained maple or sycamore thus thrill together, and 
each supplies the deficiency of the other, both blending 
in harmonious and sympathetic union, the ribs welding 
the back and the belly into an organic whole, whilst 
the sound-post, poetically called by the French the 
soul of the violin (I'dme du violori), collects the quick 
and slow vibrations, and fusing them, produces the 
subtle resultant of violin tone. 

That tone is the offspring of neither back nor front, 
nor ribs alone, but of all these differently vibrating 
surfaces, collected and made musical in the "soul," 
and poured forth as the breath of life from the / / 
holes as out of the very mouth and nostrils of the 
violin. Surely the children of the violin are nothing 


but the sweet and subtly compounded sounds that 
it utters. 

The bisexual figure holds good even to the bow 
and strings. The bow is the male and the strings 
are the female elements. They can only vibrate when 
touched swept into a tempest of emotion or caressed 
into tender whispers. 

They wait and pine for this magic touch, and long 
for their own fulfilment. They are so sensitive that 
they respond to the lightest feathery kiss of the 
powdered and anointed horse -hair they murmur, 
they sigh, they scream, they weep, they laugh, but 
only when smitten, coaxed or agonised, sometimes 
almost torn, at others calmly and masterfully swept; 
whilst the finger-tips, pressing out the vibrations and 
generating those magnetic thrills which go forth charged 
with the musician's very thought and feeling, aid and 
abet the masculine power of the bow. They are its 
ministers; without them the might of the bow itself 
would be impotent; without them the very strings 
would be unable to yield their infinite variety of tone 
and inflection of meaning. Yes, certainly the violin 
is of all instruments the most human, personal, and 
sympathetic, for the violin is truly bisexual. 

It is also a miracle of art, strength, and simplicity 
we may say at once, as light as a feather and as strong 
as a horse. It is composed of thin sheets or slips of 
wood, only about a fragment of an inch thick; but, 
by the simplest and soundest mechanical construc- 
tion, these are so put together as to resist a stram 



of about a hundredweight upon the belly, neck, and 
tailpiece, from the tension of the four strings. 

Six sycamore ribs and twelve internal blocks and 
linings suffice to hold the back and belly together. 

The neck carries the ebony finger-board and lifts 
its characteristic scroll or head so expressive that 
makers can almost be recognised by its physiognomy. 

The neck is let solidly into the ribs and fastened 
against the lower part of the belly. When firmly 
glued it is extremely difficult to detach it, and once 
only in my experience has the neck of a violin proved 
unequal to support the enormous pull made upon it by 
the strings. 

It was in Ceylon. The heat was intense and moist. 
I had borrowed a violin for experimental purposes 
in one of my lectures at Colombo. In the middle 
of an attempted passage the neck quietly doubled 
up; the strings fell in a loose cluster. The glue 
had liquefied, and the whole fiddle came to pieces in 
my hands. What no time nor wear and tear had 
been able to effect had been suddenly achieved by 
the peculiar hothouse, vapour-bath treatment of the 

The early viol-makers no doubt at first selected their 
wood empirically; but it soon became an established 
rule to take a soft wood for the belly and a hard wood 
for the back. If all were soft, the sound would be 
muffled and tubby ; if all were hard, the sound would 
be metallic and light; neither must the thickness of 
back and front be uniform each must be thicker 


towards the middle, but how thick or how thin must 
depend upon the relative densities of the wood. The 
problem was to find the relative densities which would 
best vibrate together a cunning connoisseur in timber 
can judge of these densities even by the feel of the 
wood. Of course the densities will affect the tone 
yielded by the wood when set in vibration, and it is 
difficult to believe that Stradiuarius and his school 
were unacquainted with some exact technical method 
of testing the acoustic properties of these woods. 

Monsieur Savart's experiments with specimen strips 
of Stradiuarius backs and bellies showed that in most 
cases tested there was the difference of one tone between 
the belly and the back. A 1717 and a 1708 Strad 
back both yielded a F f , a 1724 and a 1690 Strad 
bellies gave the interval, so that Stradiuarius worked 
his backs and bellies on some regular principle. On 
examining specimens of Joseph Guarnerius, it was found 
that his best were made with only a full tone between 
back and belly ; but occasionally the interval was greater. 

The sound-bar is a subtly proportioned strip of pine- 
wood running nearly all the way down the middle of 
the belly inside. The increasing tension of the modern 
pitch has made it necessary to strengthen all the old 
violin sound-bars, as the increasing demands for execu- 
tion have compelled the lengthening of all their necks. 

It is needless to say that the sound-bar readjustment 
is a delicate surgical operation, more difficult than the 
substitution of a long violin neck for a short one, for 
the neck no more affects the tone than the screws in the 


head. But any blundering with a sound-bar is fatal to 
the nervous system of the violin ; the wolf may sud- 
denly be evolved that horrid dull growl which sets 
the teeth on edge, and which, once generated within the 
violin, is so difficult to diagnose or to cure. The best 
old masters finished everything inside their violins as 
carefully as the purfling and the joinings which would 
meet the eye, and this although a century might elapse 
before those tiny smooth blocks in the angles, or that 
carefully-cut close lining of wooden strips fitting neatly 
to the bellies as a glove to the hand, might chance to 
be seen at all. 

Many forgeries have thus been rudely unmasked, the 
forger only having troubled to make clean the outside 
of the cup and platter, whilst within you find the dead 
men's bones of his slovenly dishonesty.- He worked 
only to sell, and to sell by deception (not because he 
cared for his craft or respected his instrument), and his 
works do follow him ! But as Mr Lowell says 

" Men as worked thorough is the ones that thrive, 
But bad work follers you as long as yer live ; 
Yer can't get rid on it, just as sure as sin, 
Tis allers askin' to be done agio." 

The finger-board is of black ebony ; in the old fiddles 
it was often inlaid. There need be little said about it 
except that the old masters would be puzzled to know 
what a player could want with our long finger-boards, 
and still more would they have been puzzled could they 
have heard the extraordinary and complex effects we 


manage to produce with our extended compass and 
phenomenal shifts, in spite of the absence of frets to 
measure intervals. 

The FINGER-BOARD must be kept smooth and even, 
or it will not be possible to " stop " fifths or any other 
chord in tune. You will notice in old finger-boards the 
strings have worn deep channels, which of course mar 
the vibration. The height of the strings above the 
finger-board is to some extent a matter of fancy, and of 
course depends on the height of the bridge. A child 
or young girl would soon be discouraged with attempt- 
ing to press strings raised too high above the finger- 
board, and of course the higher you ascend the harder 
must be the pressure. On the other hand, if the strings 
are too close down, the touch is no doubt light to your 
heart's content ; but you cannot get a sufficiently full 
vibration, and your tone will suffer. 

The BRIDGE! I had almost said the asses' bridge, for 
indeed thereby hangs a tale. The hard-wood bridge, 
with its whimsical perforated visage, and its two slender 
feet clinging closely to the smooth belly of the violin, 
has been sometimes treated with scant courtesy by 
writers, and even makers do not all seem fully alive to 
its importance. I notice repairers will send you back 
your violin with a bran-new bridge, and no apology, if 
they happen to have mislaid or broken yours. But the 
bridge not only exercises the most important and indis- 
pensable functions of carrying the four strings under a 
combined pressure of seventy pounds, but it is in closer 
and more intimate contact with the instrument than 


any other of its appendages. It is so squeezed upon 
the wood as to be almost pressed into it, far more so 
than the finger-board or the tailpiece, or even the 
blocks and linings. It is charged with the primary 
vibrations from the string* and the secondary vibra- 
tions of the belly, side, and back; nothing goes on in 
that wondrous air column enclosed in the violin walls 
without the bridge taking cognisance of it, and possibly 
hindering or aiding and abetting its successful exit from 
the sound-holes. 

I am aware that I have been thought fanciful in 
this matter, but an experience of many years has 
convinced me that it is not easy to get a bridge that 
suits a violin perfectly, and most dangerous to trifle 
with the close and quasi marital relations which exist 
between the violin and its bridge. I' dislike new 
bridges. I love old ones ; and why, when all the rest 
happens to be old, is the bridge alone to bring the raw 
sap of youth to vex the mellow and desiccated repose 
of melodious age ? 

The position of your bridge, like that of your sound- 
post, the adjusting of your screws, the thickness of 
your strings, belongs rather to the management than 
to the constitution of the violin. 

The only further details fit to be noted here seem to 
be the button supporting the tailpiece, which has a 
character of its own, in its size, material, and fixture ; 
and the far less important tailpiece, to which we may 
add the purfling and other occasional inlaying. 

The TAILPIECE, of course, is strictly indispensable, 


but it does not much matter what it is made of, or 
how it is decorated. 

The PURFLING, although occasionally resisting 
damage to the outlying edge, is chiefly ornamental, 
and consists of three thin strips of wood two ebony 
or whalebone, and one of white wood glued together 
and inlaid. 

In the purfling we have the last survival of the 
inlaying as applied to musical instruments. You will 
notice that the further you go back the more elabo- 
rately inlaid are the viols and violins. It was thought 
that the instrument, which was little more in those 
days of rudimentary music than a toy, might fitly be 
exploited to show off the conceit of artists and the 
skill of cabinet-makers; but as music developed and 
tone was reckoned all-important, every detail likely 
to interfere with this new development gradually dis- 
appeared, till in the hands of the Cremonese makers 
the faint memory of all the gorgeous niother-of -pearl, 
ebony, ivory, gold and silver embossing, survives only 
in the narrow three thin lines of the purfling which 
strike the contour of the instrument and give piquancy 
to its form. 

And thus the perfect sounding violin, though de- 
nuded of all superfluous decoration and meretricious 
adornment, yet remains a miracle of art "a thing 
of beauty and a joy for ever." 



TUB violin proper is an Italian creation. It comes 

from the north of Italy. Stainer, it is true, is an early 
maker, and he bore a German name, but his date is 
after all 1621-83, whilst that of Maggini is 1590-1632; 
and if you visit the frontier village of Absam, near 
the town of Hall, where he lived, you will observe that 
he dwelt on the high-road between the Tyrol and 
Italy, and that his training, his talent, and his market 
were Italian. 

But Brescia was really the home of the violin, and 
there is possibly something in the heavy salt seasoning 
of the Tyrolean pines which specially favours that 
peculiar resonance, sensitiveness, and durability for 
which the Brescian and Cremonese schools are famous. 

The name of G-asparo di Sal6 (Bertolotti was his 
real name), now chiefly famous for his double-basses 
and violas, must ever be revered by students as the 
master of the great Maggini, who was in reality the 
father of the violin, in the sense of having clearly, at 
once and for ever, differentiated the instrument as a 
distinct type. 

Salo is a lovely spot on the shores of the lake of 


Garda, in the province of Brescia, and about twenty 
miles from the big town. It was early famed for its 
culture. Foreigners went there for the sake of its 
schools, and the Corporation records show that sacred 
music especially flourished there. It is now certain 
that Gasparo migrated thence to Brescia and worked 
in that town. Maggini was as certainly his pupil. 
This is proved by a legal document, dated 1602, which 
has lately been discovered, bearing the joint signatures 
of Gasparo and Maggini, who is termed his " garzone," 
or apprentice. 

Gaspare's share in violin-making proper could not 
have been very great, as the earliest violin orchestral 
music appeared in Italy in 1608, and Gasparo died in 
1610 or thereabouts a fact which, taken in connection 
with the extreme rareness of any Gaspardian instru- 
ments which can be called violins, seems to argue that 
the piccolo violino which was presently going to be 
master of the situation was only just creeping up. 

I have seen and played on one very fine Gasparo 
violin, the property of Lord Amherst D and A strings 
rich and pure, 1st and 4th rather muffled, but on the 
whole the tone is mellow and powerful. 

This almost unique Gasparo violin is still bulgy, but 
a great improvement on the old viol build; the head 
is long and quaint-looking, but lacks that finish and 
character which later masters put into their scrolls. 
Gasparo's basses are still much sought after, and 
Dragonetti possessed more than one. 

A giant specimen, known as the Duke of Leinster's 


bass, may still be seen at the South Kensington Museum, 
and I exhibited it at the Koyal Institution in 1872. 
His work is heavy and lacks refinement, but his tone is 
grand and full-bodied. 

Gio. PAOLO MAGGINI was the child of his father's old 
age, and born at Botlicino, near the town of Brescia, 
which afterwards became the family headquarters. 

Brescia was at this time a strongly fortified place, 
and a print as late as 1764 probably gives us a fair 
notion of what it looked like between 1560 and 1632. 

Swift brooklets ran down the streets, and outside the 
walls were spreading woodlands and ploughed fields. 
It boasted of a splendid brick palace, the Broletta, and 
a massive belfry of rough stone (Torre del Popolo), a 
Castello, and an old Duomo ; the streets were adorned 
with frescoes. The Cathedral of San Pietro de Dom 
was famous for its music, and had an organ and full 
orchestra. The viol-makers and the monks were then, 
as they have since been, in intimate relations, and it 
was a couple of monks who befriended Gasparo when 
he was down in the world in health and fortune, and 
sadly needed it. 

The princes of Italy at this time (1512-1630) were 
great patrons of art, letters, and especially music. 
Brescia in 1600 was under Venetian rule. The town 
or fortress was from its very position constantly in the 
midst of wars and rumours of wars, and was appro- 
priately famed amongst other things for its manufactory 
of swords and armour. 

It is surprising how little military commotions seem 


to have affected, either at Brescia or at Cremona, the 
manufacture of musical instruments. There seems to 
have been an uninterrupted line of viol and cither and 
lute makers at Brescia from 1300 and onwards. 

But when it is remembered that war does not inter- 
rupt the functions of religion or diminish the impor- 
tance of the clergy (nay, often enhances both), we can 
understand that the musical instrument makers might 
have been as much in demand, in the stormiest times of 
the Visconti and Medici, as druggists, soothsayers, or 
mountebanks ; and they probably made impartially for 
friend or foe for any one, in fact, who could afford 
to pay. 

Up to within the last few years very little was known 
of this man Gio. Paolo Maggini Magino or Magicino. 
As he put only the name and place, but not the date, 
on his labels (all dated Magginis are therefore frauds), 
it is not easy to assign fixed dates to any of his instru- 
ments, and the personal information to be squeezed out 
of them is of the meagrest description. He worked in 
Brescia ; few of his instruments survive. His violas are 
as rare as Gaspare's violins, but he distances all other 
makers in the attention that he gave to that new- 
fangled and suspiciously regarded instrument, the true 

His handwriting, some of which survives, would lead 
one to suppose that his education was very moderate, 
but the signatures of illustrious princes of this period 
are no better. Eecently, however, the State Archives 
of Brescia have revealed some interesting gleams of 


information which enable us to show him in his work- 
shop with one apprentice, Franchino, and a young 
wife, aged nineteen, Maddalena Anna, who brought 
him a dowry, and afterwards children. 

A picture of his house in the Contrada del Palazzo, 
Vechio del Podesta, lies before me. It has but two 
storeys, and the family lived upstairs, surrendering the 
ground floor to the violin business. 

In a woodcut by Jost Anian, Zurich (1539-91), we 
have an authentic picture of such easy, leisurely, calm 
workers as Maggini 

There is the rude substantial bench, the tools, the 
glue-pot, the planks and the wood in blocks, bits of 
fiddles and strips of timber hung up on the walls ; the 
aproned artificer is carefully trying a lute as he sits on 
his three-legged stool 

What simplicities ! Were we to enter in imagina- 
tion the studios in which the greatest pictures in the 
world were being painted about this time, the same 
meagre appliances and absence of superfluous luxury 
would doubtless have greeted our eyes. 

But our gorgeous modern studios hung with the 
spoils of the East, and iridescent with precious pottery 
and curiously worked metals, our modern workshops 
with their exquisite mechanical appliances and all sorts 
of labour-saving machines, somehow fail to rival in 
quality of production those old masters who sat on 
three-legged stools, ground their own pigments, made 
their own glue and varnish, and chopped and chiselled 
their own wood. 


If you consider Maggini's period (1560-1632) you 
will see how exactly the direction of his genius was 
conditioned by the demands of his age. 

The singing-schools of Naples had resulted in a call 
for stringed instruments in increased numbers, but the 
old viols were seen to correspond ill to the altered 
times, and the need for an instrument which would 
render leading melodies effectively was felt just in 
proportion as such melodies became multiplied with 
the rise of vocal music, sacred and profane. 

Most writers on the violin seem to have a passion 
for cutting up a maker's life into periods, as though 
a man could rise one morning and say, " Go to now, 
let us enter upon period number three, in which the 
back shall be sloped so, and the belly brought down 
thus, and the curve of the bouts tilted, contracted, or 
elongated thus." All that can be safely said is, after 
such and such a time Maggini or Amati dropped or 
adopted this or that feature as a rule, and we may 
infer that a maker came under such and such influences, 
and so forth. 

Now I come to speak of Maggini, I will trace 
roughly but clearly what may be called hia continuous 
development, rather than any so-called three periods. 

Naturally at first the pupil made like his master 
Gasparo. His violins suggested big viols on a small 
scale. They had a heavy look; they were of large 
size, which makes the sides seem lower than they are, 
for jta reality the ribs are not higher than those of 
the Amati 


The heads look rough, because, with the reduced 
size, no increase of refinement or delicacy has yet 
been reached; now, they are cut without symmetry; 
now, the fluting of the scroll is not smoothed, even 
the grooves for the purfling are not neat, nor is the 
purfling itself sharp. 

Maggini's early backs, sides, and bellies are cut on 
the slab that is, across the grain. 

Then Gaspare's sound-holes have got narrower in 
the hands of his pupil, and Gasparo has probably got 
credit for some of the improvements of Maggini, as 
there can be little doubt that some violins labelled 
Gasparo are the work of his pupil, just as early 
Stradivari violins are in existence signed Nicolo 

If I may hazard the remark, in my opinion Maggini 
did not copy so long or BO seriously the work of 
Gasparo as did Stradivari copy Nicolo. The reason 
is obvious. The stride between Gasparo and Mag- 
gini is far greater than that between the late Nicolo 
and the Strad. By the time Nicolo died the violin 
had already risen to that supreme and independent 
individuality and dignity which it has never since 

Stradivari got the violin all ready made; it was 
Maggini's glory to have assisted at the individualisa- 
tion of the " King " type. 

Presently we become aware that Gasparo is dead and 
buried. The Maggini bellies now cease to be cut on 
the slab, but show the long parallel grain lines of the 


wood as in the Amatis ; the art of wood selection for 
sonority and sensitiveness seems already to have reached 
the 1650 Cremona level. The sound-holes are more 
delicate, but still a little quaint; they are invariably 
bevelled inwards, a practice entirely discarded by the 
Cremona masters. 

Sir Joseph Chitty's, and Mr Sternberg's, and the 
Dumas' tenors are good specimens of Maggini's first 
independent work illustrating the above characteristics. 
The Dumas family were friends of Beethoven, and 
enthusiastic admirers of Maggini's work. They pos- 
sessed at least one valuable "chest" of his instruments. 
A chest is described by an old writer as " a large hutch 
with several compartments and partitions in it, each 
lined with green baize" (we have since gone heavily 
into velvet and plush). 

There are only about eight violas or tenors of Mag- 
gini's known ; they do not vary in their proportions. 

The model of the Dumas viola is of the master's 
most arched type a feature much exaggerated by 
Stainer and his followers. It is, like almost all this 
master's specimens, adorned with double purfling, set 
close to the edge, with the usual Maggini bevel at 
the corner joints. These corners give it a special phy- 
siognomy ; they are short, and make no appeal to the 
eye like the later Cremonas. The tenor's //holes are 
upright, short, and broad ; they are higher than in the 
same maker's violins, the top curves as usual larger than 
the bottom ones, the back and belly both in two pieces ; 
the bass bar and blocks inside have been strengthened; 


the rough tooth of the well-known Brescian plane has 
left its mark on the wood inside. The Dumas tenor 
is in exquisite condition ; the varnish is unlike the old 
Gasparo brown, it glows with rich golden tints. Its 
type is admirably defined; no one in looking at this 
tenor can say, " This is a little violoncello," or " This is 
a big violin." It is a distinct viola type, and it set the 
type for all succeeding violas. The Cremona makers 
worked on it, but they did not re-create the tenor; 
they could not. 

The Dumas-Maggini violin is in equally fine condi- 
tion; it looks so new that some have supposed that, 
although eighty years before Stradivari, it must be a 
copy made by Strad of the older master, but it is 
absolutely authentic and genuine. 

Before Maggini died, we notice that -a very high 
standard of finish has been reached, unknown to him 
in his earlier days, or, as for the matter of that, to 
any of his predecessors. Observe the improved purfling, 
the bouts and mitres cut with clear intention, but 
never so marked in physiognomy as the Amatis, the 
sound-holes quite as sharp as theirs; but, above all, 
the arching has at last come down this true hint, 
so early given, was not at once adopted by Maggini's 
Cremonese successors. Straclivarius at last fixed it and 
regulated it in a model from which no later maker 
has found it safe to depart with the exception of Duke 
and Klotz, who obstinately adhered to the Stainer high 
bellies with deep side grooves. 

Maggini's later Tarnish runs out of the old Gasparo 

PLATE II (to face page 39^ 

A Maggini violin (the " De Beriot") owned by Mr 
Antonietti. The Maggini here given is an admirably 
preserved specimen of the great Brescian master, who, 
next to Stradiuarius, did more than any one man to 
inspire and define the ideal shape, from which even the 
Amati at first departed, but which Strad had the 
genius to restore and perfect. The corners, however, 
have been rubbed, and not in every case renewed, 
otherwise it is in as perfect a condition as can be ex- 
pected in so old a fiddle. The scroll is cut with a care 
and an advanced finish which reminds us of the bolder 
Htrad period, 1700-30. Maggini, oddly enough, was 
little honoured in the first quarter of this century, but 
De Beriot had the insight to discern his merits ; and 
from the time he adopted him for his masterly and full- 
toned performances, the Magginis rose, and have been 
continuing to rise, in public estimation, 


brown into orange and golden yellow, as luscious as 
anything to be found in a Joseph or a Strad. 

Although Maggini adhered to his double purfling, 
there are specimens of his work in exhibitions without 
it ; and at least one curiously but not carelessly made 
instrument is known where the purfling at the back 
is neither double nor even inlaid, but merely drawn 
sharply in black lines. A very fine single-purfled 
violin, formerly in the collection of Prince Caraman 
Chimay, now in the possession of Mr Antonietti, pos- 
sesses an unrivalled tone of the Maggini timbre. Many 
of his violins retain the old taste for other inlaid orna- 
mentation. He does not run into maps and portraits, 
but a graceful clover-leaf pattern is often found at top 
and bottom of his backs, twisted, as it were, out of the 
purfling, and a sixfold trefoil sometimes occupies the 
centre of the back ; but an acute observer has noted 
that there is no instance of the central trefoil com- 
bined with the clover-leaf pattern. 

Not less remarkable than this great maker's definition 
of the violin and viola types was his conception of the 
violoncello. The Maggini 'cello is not the son of the 
double-bass, but the father of the tenor. It is much 
more like a large tenor than like a small double-bass ; 
the proportions are, as it were, enlarged from the tenor, 
not reduced from the flat-backed bass. Maggmi's 
bent was entirely in the direction of the smaller 
violoncello pattern. 

The early and even the later Cremona 'cellos were 
too large, and there is very little doubt that the 


powerful influence of Maggini can be traced in the 
evolution of those perfect but moderately sized Strad 
'cellos which date mostly after 1700. 

The tone of Maggini is full, mellow, and plaintive, 
rather than biting like Stainer, bell-resonant like 
Strad, or soft and sensitive like Nicolo Amati; but 
great players like Vieuxtemps, Ole Bull, Leonard, 
and De Beriot have found him sufficient, and if more 
have not extolled Maggini, it may be on account of 
the rareness and inaccessibility of his instruments. 

It has been said by a competent authority that not 
more than fifty extant Magginis are known, and in 
England at present (1897) about thirty violins, ten 
violas, and but two violoncellos and one double-bass. 

Maggini died at the comparatively early age of fifty- 
one. All researches made in the archives of S. Lorenzo, 
his parish church, have failed to reveal the date of his 
death, and the worst of it is that the registers of that 
church prior to 1700 have disappeared. 

We hear plenty about his wife, Anna Foresti, who 
died 1651, aged fifty-eight, and was buried in a neigh- 
bouring parish. 

It is more than probable that Maggini himself was 
a victim to the plague which raged at Brescia in 1632, 
and that he was hastily interred, or, dying at the Pest 
House, no official note of his death may have been 
taken. At any rate, in 1632, the year of the plague, 
his son describes himself as " films quondam Johannis 
Pauli" the son of the late Gio. Paolo. 

His last income-tax return is dated 1626, and he 



was dead in 1632, so he must have died at latest in 
1632, and therefore could not have been more than 
fifty-one. Maggini was doubtless well off, owned con- 
siderable property in and out of town, was the father 
of flix children, and, what was ot far more importance 
the father of the mociera violiu, 



CREMONA ! Amati ! two words making melody with their 
very syllables, and a deeper harmony still for the lover 
of music, from the association of ideas which they 

With the assumed immigration of makers from 
Brescia the emergence of the Amati family (the 
name of Amati is not found in the Brescian archives), 
and their final residence at Cremona begins the classic 
period of the violia 

Cremona, ancient city of strife, which, owing to its 
very situation (/cpi #oVo?, " high rock " and " alone "), 
was the battle-point of the middle ages from the days 
of the old Goths and Lombards down to quite modern 
times; Cremona, with its stately cathedral so little 
known or visited, yet possessing two of the finest red 
lions couchant, supporting portico columns of one of 
the noblest cathedral facades in Italy ; Cremona, with 
its antiquated back streets, its drowsy quiet life gliding 
on apart from the beaten thoroughfares of travel 
truly, Cremona town is a place to set one dreaming! 

I have narrated elsewhere my pilgrimage to the place 
which so ungratefully forgets almost the very tradition 


of the Amati, Stradivari, and Guarnerii, whose fabrics 
alone have given it a musical immortality, and whose 
names are hung up high like the stars, which no discords 
of the middle ages, sieges, or brawls can ever reach. 

Let us now try and come face to face with these 
immortal makers. 

Andrea Amati (p&re) settled at Cremona, and made 
violins from 1520-46. He brought with him his 
brother Nicolo (not the great Nicolo, afterwards 
master of Stradivari, Italian, or Stradiuarius, Latin). 

Andrea Amati had two sons, Antonio and Geronimo, 
who made violins jointly as well as separately. When 
Antonio married, the fiddles of neither seemed to im- 
prove. The brothers ceased for a time at least to work 
together (there being, it is said, a period in which there 
are no joint reductions) ; but as there are much later 
violins bearing their joint names, it has been assumed 
that they again collaborated. If we trust some of these 
late labels the brothers being born about 1555-56, 
and one of the joint violins being dated 1687 it would 
follow that the venerable artificers were still making 
violins at the age of 136 years, which beats Stradivari 
himself, who only worked till he was ninety-three. 

Geronimo, according to one writer's account of his 
labels, went even one better, for there is a Geronimo 
violin dated 1698; so if this Geronimo, brother of 
Antonio, was born about 1556, which is tolerably 
certain, he went on working even longer than Moses, 
with his eye undimmed and his natural strength 
unabated, down to the age of 148 ! 


The confusion has arisen from confounding G-eronimo, 
brother of Antonio, with Geronimo, son of the great 
Nicolo (born 1649, died 1740). But if there exists a 
signed Geronimo and Antonio dated 1698, which 
seems very doubtful, it would be certainly easier to 
believe that, as the demand for Italian instruments by 
makers of repute had well set in before 1700, the late 
Antonio and Geronimo label was stolen from the old 
workshops the last two figures of 16 being filled 
in, and the label clapped on to cover the fraud ; whilst 
any Geronimo violin dated 1698 would be by Geronimo, 
son of Nicolo ; or at most, one made up by some enter- 
prising pupil out of the debris of the elder Geronimo's 
workshop perhaps about the time that Nicolo the 
Great, son of Geronimo and grandson of Andrea, 
was working with his pupils, Stradivari and Andrea, 
Guarnerii, and his own son, the younger Geronimo 
or Girolamo Amati. 

But with this Geronimo Amati, son of Nicolo (born 
1649), and a certain Don Nicolo Amati, an Italian 
priest, we need not trouble ourselves beyond recording 
their names. 

A good deal has been said about Andrea Amati and 
his violins. He was certainly the founder of the family, 
but not much is known about him except that he 
probably, almost certainly, acquired from Brescia the 
Maggini type, and that his violins are somewhat 
smaller, arched in the belly, with a varnish that runs 
out of the Brescian brown into the mellow and brilliant! 
gold and ruddy tints common to the Cremona varnish ; 


the later Amatis have a tendency to revert to the 
browner hue. 

That Andrea made some choice violins for Charles 
IX. of France twenty-four violins, twelve large, twelve 
small pattern, known as " les petits violons du roi " 
there can be no doubt, but they disappeared from 
Versailles in the political disturbances about 1790. 
The arms of France, we are told, were painted on the 
backs, and they are said to have been of beautiful 

A 'cello, "Andrea Amati Cremonentis faciebat, 
1572," was sold amongst some others belonging to Sir 
William Curtis, May 1827. This is known as the 
"Bridge's viollo." Its history is romantic, it having 
been presented by Pope Pius V, to Charles IX. of 
France, and surnamed the " King." 

The Amati characteristic, which culminates, along 
with other qualities of sonority, in the great Nicolo, 
1596-1684, is sweetness of tone; but a certain want 
of power is noticeable, especially on the fourth string. 
The "A" is beautiful, the "E" soft and delicate, and 
the third very full and round qualities which are also 
conspicuous in the brothers Geronimo, 

But if Amati tone is of cabinet, not concert quality, 
its quality is of a kind unequalled for charm and 
sensitiveness, and although not loud, some violins made 
by the brothers have a considerable carrying power. 

The Amati heads or scrolls retained a certain sim- 
plicity and antique Brescian look even after the finish 
and form of the body of the violin had left the Brescian 


school far behind. The double purfling of Brescia is 
also gone, but the brothers purfled very beautifully, 
with a bend of perfect regularity and smoothness. 

The violins of Antonio are better than his brother's* 
but the joint violins are the best, and have been 
oftenest forged. 

The brothers indeed made excellent violas, but, as 
the fashion then was, too large. They have been 
sometimes cut down. Sir Frederick Gore Ousely once 
/ had a fine specimen, which I remember playing upon 
|^ many years ago at Tenby tone very full and mellow. 
> v ' 't Kichard Blagrove, a brother of Henry Blagrove, the 
| admirable early Monday Popular violinist, was a viola 
! player, and used a reputed Amati, but it was really a 
/ Gagliano. Many of us (1897) can remember how richly 
I it contributed to the triumph of a quartet, of which 
I Joachim, Eiess, and Piatti were often the other members. 
Her late Majesty the Queen had a fine painted Amati, 
unfortunately cut down; and Miss Seton's Geronimo 
Amati is a rare specimen, and from the MS. of Ascenzio, 
a priest at Madrid, we learn that it was a favourite 
violin of Charles IV. of Spain. 

Geronimo, after separating from Antonio, reduced 
the arching of his bellies, but, singularly enough, with- 
out improving his tone-power. The over-arching of 
the early makers and scooped side-curves are generally 
supposed to be a vice in acoustics finally overcome by 
the gentle natural curve and flatter models of Nicolo, 
but it is perhaps possible to ride a theory too hard. I 
have certainly played on instruments deeply grooved, 


with rounded bellies, powerful Dukes and piercing 
Stainers, which, according to the orthodox theory, had 
no business to sound as loud as they did. It is well 
known that in both these Amati makers the late 
Cremona flat curve is conspicuous by its absence ; and 
whilst I do not for a moment deny that the flatness of 
the Stradivari model is preferable, I think the superi- 
ority of the late Cremona tone may be due to a good 
many other things beside that. It will always be a 
question whether the man who makes possible the 
last perfection of an art or the man who actually 
achieves it is really the greater genius. Pietro Peru- 
gino or Kaffaello in painting ; Chaucer or Shakespeare 
in literature ; Handel or Beethoven in music ; Gasparo 
and Maggini or Stradivari in violin -making ; but 
popular opinion generally plucks the blossom without 
troubling itself much about the roots, and the prices 
fetched by the finest Strad and the finest Gasparo, or 
even Nicolo Amati, practically settle the question as 
regards the violin-makers. 400 is an unusual price 
for a fine Nicolo (250 is nearer the mark, 1898); 
1000 is not an uncommon figure for a good Strad, 
and his finest specimens command 2000 (1898). 

Nicolo, the great son of Geronimo, was born in 
1596, and died close upon the seventeen hundreds, in 
1684. Nicolo was quite aware that he resumed in 
himself the fine qualities of his distinguished family 
and improved upon them. It is true he did not 
trouble himself much with his grandfather Andrea, 
whom he probably regarded as a worthy old gentleman 


quite out of date. There could have been little in 
those small, almost three-quarter size, brown varnished, 
and sweet but feeble-sounding violins to attract the 
aspiring grandson ; but there were qualities in the some- 
what larger models of the famous brothers, Geronimo 
and Antonio, which set his hand and head agoing, 
when as a boy he fell to copying and carving backs 
and bellies, and twisting ribs and throwing scrolls, in 
his father's little workshop at Cremona, opposite the 
west front of the Saint Dominic Church. 

Nicolo the Great doubtless followed and imitated 
his father Geronimo, but wishing to miss nothing, 
and perhaps labouring under a sense of obligation or 
merely out of genuine affection, his labels embody an 
immortal acknowledgment of indebtedness to both 
masters. They run thus: "Nicolaus Amatus Cre- 
monem Hieronymi Fil, ac Antonij Nepos fecit, 1677." 
(The italics are mine.) 

Nicolo the Great's smaller patterns made in his 
father's workshop are not unfrequently to be met with, 
and can be picked up for between 80 and 100, or 
even less. 

But as we watch his dates, the touch of Nicolo very 
soon becomes distinctive. On the death of his father 
and uncle he found himself in possession of a work- 
shop which inherited a great name, but which was 
destined to transmit to future generations the greatest 
violin names in the world. Among the pupils of 
Nicolo in 1653 sat the brothers Guarneri, Andrea 
Guarnerius having witnessed the marriage of his master 


Nicolo and signed the register; and by the side of 
Andrea Guarnerius sat a young man named Antonio 
Stradivari, or, as we usually call him, Stradiuarius. 

Most of the Nicolo violins before 1645 are of the 
smaller pattern, but after this date down to 1684, the 
year of his death, the eye of a connoisseur will notice 
an increase in size, a finish in workmanship, and a 
more delicate purfle (never double). The model is 
still somewhat high in back and belly, bub with an 
increasing tendency to get flatter; the side-grooving 
is less pronounced, whilst the corners are noticeably 
drawn out into finer points full of character, arresting 
the eye, lightening as it were the model, and giving 
the whole physiognomy of the instrument a grace and 
piquancy hitherto unattempted. 

The sound-holes of Nicolo are pointed and somewhat 
narrow ; the scroll is cut a little too flat for the later 
taste, but passes as the century wanes into a somewhat 
larger and bolder style. The wood seems to be chosen 
almost as much for its mottled or fine-grained beauty 
as for its acoustical properties. 

The early Nicolo varnish is of brownish Brescian 
type, but later on it glows with the rich amber tints 
of Creinona, and those dragon-blood stains which give 
to some Strads and Josephs such warm and generous 
tints like the sunlit dashes of mellow red on a ripe 

Mr Somers Cocks (1898) has a most glorious Amati 
violoncello, "one of the finest ever seen or heard," so 
said to me a distinguished connoisseur. Mr Marshall 



Bulley's violoncello, a Jerome (the younger) Amati, is 
also a rare gem of tone and workmanship.* 

The grand Amati violin pattern runs some of the 
Stradivari violins very hard, and is evidently the model 
on which the 1700-35 Strads are "caique*," as the 
French say. The side -grooving, generally held to 
interfere with the volume of tone, whilst supposed by 
some to add to its sweetness, has not disappeared as 
in the Strad grand model, but it has become less 
pronounced. The tone is lovely and sensitive, and 
the Nicolo is truly delightful to handle. It is par 
excellence the lady's violin. 

The one before me, where the varnish still remains, 
melts into light orange with clear golden gleams in it. 
If Joseph is the strong male, Nicholas or Nicolo cer- 
tainly belongs to the softer and more yielding sex. 
The tone is most delicate, and of ravishing sweetness. 
It seems to leap out almost before the horse-hair has 
feathered the strings. It continues to sing on like a 
vibrating silver bell, as if intoxicated with itself, long 
after the bow has ceased its contact. In the sweet 
Nicolo the lover finds no bars, no obstacles ; it is won 
almost before 'tis wooed (Plate V.). 

We are interested to know that in his own time 
Nicolo's work was carefully imitated, if not forged; 
whilst his supremacy over one of his best pupils, 
Francesco Kugereo, Rugieri, or Kugerius, was clearly 

* An unique set of instruments by the Amati family worthy of 
mention is the quintett, composed of three violins, a viola, and a 
violoncello, now (1898) hi the possession of Miss Willmott. 

PLATE III (to face page 50J 

Her late Majesty's Amati tenor is in beautiful con- 
dition; it is elaborately ornamented, in lieu of the 
usual purfling. It was, doubtless, originally made to 
order for some great prelate ; and it bears on its back a 
noble coat of arms hardly decipherable, and the image 
of John Baptist carrying, a lamb ( ' ' Behold the Lamb 
of God !" John i. 36). The instrument was used in 
Her late> Majesty's private band by Mr Hann (1898). 
Like many old viols it has been somewhat reduced in 
size. For the loan of this instrument I am indebted to 
the good offices of Sir Walter Parratt, director of the 
late Queen's private band. 


acknowledged; for we find that a certain Tomaso 
Antonio Vitali, who seems to have bought a violin 
with a Nicolo label inside, and paid twelve doubloons 
(or about 12, 10s.) for it, complained bitterly that on 
removing the false label he had discovered the name of 
Euggeri underneath it. The aggrieved Tomaso there- 
upon applied to his liege sovereign, the Grand Duke of 
Modena, for summary redress, avowing that he had 
given a higher price because the violin had a label of 
Nicolo, " who," he adds, " was a maker of great repute 
in his profession, but now it was proved to be only a 
violin by Kugerius the pupil, a maker of less credit." 
The violin, he said, was scarce worth to him more than 
three doubloons; the petitioner therefore prayed the 
Duke for redress. Whether he got it or not was no 
doubt very important to him, but of very little conse- 
quence to us. The fact that he made the application 
is the point. 

The GUARNBBII family must have made violas or 
violins as the sand of the sea in number, if the 
frequency of their labels may be taken as any guide ; 
and in truth they were a long-lived and industrious 
family, and doubtless made a good many instruments, 
chiefly violins. But the reputation of Andrew and 
Peter, and above all the great Giuseppe (Joseph) del 
Gesii, led to the early fabrication of pseudo Josephs, 
and labels in numbers far beyond what all the great 
makers of Cremona together could have produced. 

Andrea Guarneri (Andrew Guarnerius) the appren- 
tice, as we have seen, was one of the witnesses to the 


great Nicolo Auiati's marriage in 1641, and Nicolo 
enters his pupil's name in the church register as aged 
fifteen, which gives us the year of his birth, 1626. He 
worked on till 1698 ; in 1652 he married, and two of his 
sons, Giuseppe (not the great Giuseppe, his nephew) 
and Pietro, worthily sustained and improved upon their 
father's reputation. 

Many of the violins of Andrea Guarneri are of the 
smaller Nicolo pattern, but somewhat inferior, and not 
always well finished. The wood of his rare 'cellos, 
however, although plain in appearance, can boast of 
singularly fine acoustic qualities. 

There is a well-known 'cello now (1897) belonging to 
Miss Theobald, of his finest workmanship. 

Giuseppe, second son of Andrea Gianbattista 
Giuseppe, born 1666 to 1739, as distinguished from 
Del Gesu or " Jesus " Giuseppe, struck out a freer line 
of work. His narrow-waisted boldly-curved instru- 
ments, with their Brescian-looking sound-holes set low 
down, his rich, almost too profusely rich, varnish and 
fine wood, but not over-finished workmanship, give his 
violins quite a characteristic appearance, and in power 
of tone they are superior to his father's. But next to 
the great Giuseppe del Gesu, Pietro Guarneri is the 
flower of the family, and most sought after by amateurs. 

The grain of his bellies is often wide, the distance 
between the sound-holes is conspicuous, the sound-holes 
themselves are rounder and less Brescian, the scrolls are 
beautifully cut, and the varnish is superb, from golden 
tints to pale red, which has thrown some writers inco 


rhapsodies about setting suns and the colours of the 

Passing over a lesser Pietro, son of the lesser Giuseppe, 
son of Andrea, who worked at Mantua, we come to tho 
one man who, with the exception of tho great Nicolo, 
is worthy to measure swords (or bows) with Stradivari. 
He came, singularly enough, from a side branch, and 
not in direct descent from Andrea or any violin-maker, 
being the son of one John Baptist Guarnerius, and was 
born at Cremona in 1683. 

The father of the great Giuseppe was the son of one 
Bernardo Guarnerius, who was a cousin of Andrea, 
and therefore the great Joseph was nephew of Andrea 
Guarnerius, just as the great Nicolo was the nephew of 
Andrea Amati; but a distinguished fact separates our 
Giuseppe from all his illustrious kinsfolk, and it is 
this, that his father, Bernardo, does not seem to have 
been a violin-maker at all, so the young Giuseppe owed 
Ms teaching most probably to his uncle and cousins. 

Most writers have speculated blindly enough upon 
his distinctive appendage "del Gesu," some talking 
about the Jesuits or a supposed religious bent. This 
is one of the many cases where sapient antiquaries, in 
seeking for recondite origins, neglect the simplest facts 
and ignore the easiest explanations. What can be 
more simple than for the great Giuseppe, conscious 
of his superiority to Gianbattista, son of Andrea 
Guarneri, as well as anxious to distinguish himself 
from Gianbattista, his father, and coming after both, 
though preferred before them, should call himself the 


"del Gesu," or Jesus, who followed after the John 
Baptist of the family? So far from indicating any 
particular reverence for religion, the assumption of 
this bold title seems to me to partake more of a 
certain irreverent levity ; and if, as tradition says, the 
great Giuseppe or Joseph was somewhat of a free liver, 
and perhaps even a sceptic, he may have had small 
scruples in so lightly treating sacred names and subjects. 

The question as to who may have been his master, 
and the influence (or otherwise) of Stradivari upon him, 
has also been involved, as I think, in needless mystery. 

Since Del Gesu worked at Cremona and must have 
been, as a cousin and nephew, a good deal with his 
uncle and cousins, Andrea, Giovanni, and Pietro, who 
lived there, it is no great stretch of fancy to suppose 
that when he showed the family bent for violin-making, 
he should have been apprenticed to study the art with 
his cousin Giuseppe, son of Andrea, in which case he 
must have lived next door to where Stradivari was 
working all through his finest period; and though 
Giuseppe's violins are rightly said to be in the style 
of his cousin's Gianbattista, and he may have drawn 
his early inspirations from his cousin, it is impossible 
to suppose that so able a man could be in daily con- 
tact with and yet wholly insensible to the influence 
of the greatest maker who ever lived. Why, he not 
only worked next door to Strad, but probably met 
him every afternoon at the neighbouring cafe, and was 
doubtless often about his shop, year in year out. 

Of course the differences in the work of the two 


great masters are obvious. The massive, bold, and 
original lines and less scrupulous finish of Joseph 
the Great, the powerful (almost brutally powerful) 
scroll, the loud trumpet-like imperious tone, all mark 
the masculine as contrasted with the sweeter and more 
feminine qualities of the gentler, bell-like Strad. The 
fact also before alluded to, that between the back and 
the belly of the Strad there is usually but one note, 
whilst between the back and belly of the Giuseppe del 
Gesu there are sometimes more, all prove sterling and 
distinct originality, as Eafael was distinct from Peru- 
gino or Michael Angelo from Leonardo da Vinci. But 
enough ; for to draw these comparisons before describing 
the master may seem like putting the cart before the 

So let us now, without further ado, locate the great 
violin shops at Cremona and peep into workshop No. 6, 
in the Piazza S. Domenico, now Piazza Eoma. 

In about 1540, Andrea Amati had set up his modest 
establishment, trained his sons, and taken apprentices, 
bequeathing to Nicolo his plant and pupils. 

Stradivari and the early Guarnerii then worked 
together, cheek by jowl ; by-and-by Stradivari migrated 
to No. 5, next door, and the Guarnerii with Giuseppe 
del Gesu, who died in 1745, the latest and greatest of 
that family (surviving Stradiuarius, who died in 1737, 
eight years), then set up at No. 6. 

As I have had occasion to remark elsewhere, these 
three names, Amati, the Guarnerii, Stradivari, there 
be none like them; these three shops opposite the 


big Church of S. Domenico, now demolished, there 
never were nor will be three such violin shops. 

Here were made, in long, quiet years of peaceful 
labour, between 1560 and 1760, in steady and friendly 
rivalry, all the greatest violins in the world. 

The Giuseppe del Gesu on which Paganini played, 
now in the Town Hall in Genoa, the Stradiuarius on 
which Ernst, now Lady Halle (1898), plays, Canon 
Percy Hudson's violoncel]o, Joachim and Wilhelmj's 
"Strads," the Alard, the Betts, the Dolphin, the 
Messie, the Pucelle, the Tuscan, the Fountaine, the 
Eode, and the Viotti these be the wonders of the 
violin world. 

But in following the development of the Guarnerii 
family into the seventeen hundreds, the position of 
Giuseppe del Gesu, the king of the Guarneri, must be 
clearly defined before we describe the rise ' and progress 
of Stradivari, who ran parallel with, and who, in the 
estimation of most violinists, seems to combine in him- 
self, the ne plus ultra of all violin perfection. 

Nothing about Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu is more 
remarkable than the determined way in which, after 
examining the Amati types, he deliberately went back 
to the Brescian Gasparo and Maggini models for in- 
spiration. The time had come when powerful tone 
was wanted. The Amatis were sensitive, sweet, and 
weak; in the larger and more massive Brescians 
Giuseppe found the suggestion of what he was des- 
tined to make perfect. If only he could add their 
volume to the Auiati sensitiveness an hour more or 


less spent on the cutting of corners or neater purfling 
what did it matter? Strength, power, was what he 
wanted, and the sentiment is thrown off in the bull- 
dog type of his head or scroll, in the thickness of his 
boards so much criticised, in the boldness rather than 
the grace and delicacy of his curves. 

He tried many experiments: flat make, full make, 
sound-holes cut almost perpendicularly, shortened, 
slanting, and sometimes disproportionately long. He 
was watching the effect on the volume and quality 
of tone, and when he had in his own way conquered 
that secret of grand sonority, whether empirically or 
by calculation, then, and not till then, his workman- 
ship improves. 

He was like a man who had no time to think of the 
delicate cooking till he had stayed his main appetite. 
His frequent habit of ciitting the wood upon the cross, 
d centre sens, as in the case of Mr Alfred Gibson's 
instrument (1897), a superb specimen of Del Gesu, 
shows up the coruscations of the grain, and brings out 
each pore and vein by the agate-like varnish not 
agate-like in the sense of the French chippy varnish, 
but in its clear crystalline depth and transparency. 
Del Gesu's varnish is never clotted, but is laid on 
thoroughly, yet with a light hand. Mr Kuskin used 
to say that Sir Joshua Keynolds' touch was so light 
that he could paint on a gossamer veil; Del Gesu's 
brush is also as light as a feather. Some of Del Gesu's 
later violins, dating from about 1740, after the death 
of Stradivarius, are amongst his finest. The one used 


by Professor Sauret, and the other lent to Mr Ludwig 
by Mr Frazer, are particularly fine, and belong to this 
period. Paganini's Joseph, now in the Town Hall at 
Genoa, Alard's, in the Museum of the Conservatoire of 
Music, Turin, and Vieuxternps', now in the possession 
of Maurice Sons, also belong to this great period. 

The life of Joseph Guarnerius is more or less en- 
veloped in mystery. It seems, for instance, utterly 
impossible to get at the truth about the so-called 
prison fiddles. Whenever a Joseph or a presumed 
Joseph which is not up to Joseph's standard comes 
into the market, it is dubbed a Del Gesu prison-fiddle. 

The story runs that Giuseppe, being a somewhat 
reckless person, got into trouble and was locked up for 
many years, during which time the gaoler's daughter 
got him any wood she could find, and he made these 
inferior pot-boiling fiddles, which she disposed of for 
such moderate sums as she was able. 

I prefer to put this legend wholly aside. Del Gesu 
may not have held sacred things in high estimation, 
and he may have been somewhat of a free liver this 
rests on the authority of Carlo Bergonzi's graadson, 
who was not even a contemporary of Del Gesu still 
he may have got the gossip from Bergonzi, his own 
father, who was Stradivari's pupil, and doubtless a 
rival maker ; and tongues may wag when interests are 
or seem to be opposed, and stories will come forth 
finely variegated when there is an extraordinary absence 
of reliable facts, as there undoubtedly is in the case of 
Pel Gesu, 

PLATE IV (to face page 58> 

Paganini's Joseph Guarnerius. This is a fine and 
very characteristic specimen of the mighty Del Gesu. 
It is in his most powerful and massive style (the head 
almost brutal in its bull-dog strength), with full rich 
colour thickly laid on to match. Seldom, indeed, do 
we find so much varnish left on the back of so old a vio- 
lin. The instrument has been very carefully dealt 
with. The story of how it passed into Paganini's 
hands is well known. An Italian amateur, who evi- 
dently knew its value, lent it to the great maestro, and, 
after hearing its marvellous qualities, as drawn forth 
by the Magician of the Violin, declared that no other 
hand should henceforth set its chords in vibration. 
Paganini left it to his native town of Genoa, and there 
it may still be seen in the Town Hall. It was his fav- 
ourite instrument ; and the giant Joseph Guarnerius 
Mas well matched with the giant Nicolo Paganini, 


There is, however, no direct evidence whatever that 
Del Gesu was for years in prison and that he died 
there, as says the legend ; but Canon Bazzi of Cremona 
has lately unearthed one Girolamo Guarneri who did 
die in prison in 1715 and the sanies of two very 
different men, one illustrious and the other obscure, 
have before now got mixed up, to the detriment of 
tlio illustrious one 

Something similar is said to have happened to the 
great Athanasius, whose name has been confounded 
with that of the obscure Pope Anastasius, in whose 
presence a creed was recited by one Bishop Victricius, 
and the confession of faith thus recited by command of 
Anastasius now passes as the creed of Saint Athanasius, 
since it emphasises the Trinitarian doctrine chiefly 
connected with the name of that illustrious doctor. 

A Giuseppe del Gesu is much more difficult to find 
than a Strad his output, as compared to that of 
Stradivarius, is as one to six ; his life was shorter, and 
his working career probably more erratic. But he is 
placed on a level with the immortal Antonio by some 
who know how to handle him, and the prices of his 
wares bave already reached lour figure*. 


THERE is something inexorable about the concensus of 

Individuals may chafe under it, and writers may 
try to reverse its verdict. You even have crazes for 
the revival of neglected poets, painters, and musicians, 
but you will never succeed in pushing from their pedes- 
tals the great gods whom posterity has once decided 
to bow down to. 

De Beriot may choose to play on a Maggini, and 
Paganini may prefer his Joseph, but even Maggini, 
Kicolo Amati, and Giuseppe Guarnerius, who stand 
round as it were saluting one another, leave Stradi- 
vari apart by himself like a Colossus on a moun- 
tain, and yet no one, not the greatest connoisseur, is 
able to say exactly why, When so many esteem 
individual violins aoove some JStrads, ana when Joseph 
del Gesu is held to run the magic master very hard, 
still Strad stands apart upon his mountain for all men 
to look up to and wonder at. And why? We can 
only say it is the way with all the greatest ; there is 
something of the mystery of heaven about the incom- 
municable touch ; the true aureole forms about no head 
to order, and tho lonely seats are kept for the mighty. 


Antonio Stradivari or Stradiuarius was born in 1644, 
and died, in his ninety-third year, in 1737- We get the 
date of his death from the register, and the date of his 
birth is fixed by a violin label (1736) in his own hand- 
writing, in which he states that he was ninety-three 
years old when he made the instrument. 

Stradiuarius married at the age of twenty-three a 
woman of twenty-seven, who had been a widow for 
three years, whose maiden name was Ferraboschi, and 
he adopted her one little girl By her he had six 
children, some of whom died before him. His second 
wife, whom he married several years later, bore him five 
children, two of whom died before him so that in all 
Stradivari had eleven children. None of them seemed 
to have inherited their father's genius ; only Omobono 
and Francesco Stradivari made even decent fiddles, 
and so far maintained the great name as to succeed at 
first in selling their wares at their father's prices. The 
buyers probably hoped that at least the wood might 
have been selected by Stradivari pbre, and much of it 
probably was ; and if there was the chance of getting a 
spare rib or back or belly with a touch of the master 
upon it, it was surely worth a little speculation. 

Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri, as stated 
before, were young garzoni or apprentices together in 
the workshop of the great Nicolo Amati sat on the 
same work bench, used the same tools, and doubtless 
discussed the same problems. 

In and out of that shop ran, no doubt, the boy 
Giuseppe Gaurneri to see his uncle Andrea. He must 


have always found Stradivari there ; and when, later 
on, Giuseppe imbibed a taste for fiddle-making, and 
became himself the great Del Gesu, it is hard, I insist 
upon it, to believe that what must have been a lifelong 
acquaintance with the mighty Stradivari should have had 
no influence whatever in forming his ideas and methods. 

There is no mention of the youthful Stradivari 
having accompanied Andrea Guarneri to the wedding 
of his master, Nicolo Amati ; Andrea was doubtless the 
older pupil, and Antonio Stradivari was taken on later. 

"If thou wouldst teach, learn ; if thou wouldst create, 
first copy." It is generally held that for some years, 
roughly between 1660-70, Stradiuarius simply made up, 
blocked out, drew, glued, mixed varnish, and worked 
generally, but without signing his own name to any 
fiddles. He was learning-, but in 1660 he begins to 
sign his name, not from pride, but because his master 
made him do so. From before that date to about 
1670, which brings us to within fourteen years of 
Nicolo Amati's death, he made what are sometimes 
called Amati Strads. 

At this time Antonio followed closely the violins of 
the early Nicolo rather than the grand Amati pattern, 
but he appears to have followed his master's develop- 
ments continuously, slowly, but surely. 

There exists a Stradivari violin with a label Nicholai 
Amati (anno 1667), and about that date (when he 
married) Antonio seems to have left his master's work- 
shop, but still continued closely to copy Nicolo, and 
many violins of his between 1660 and 1670 pass as 


Amatis, whilst others are called Amati Strads, and 
some are apparently joint productions. 

When Stradiuarius married (about 1667) and left 
Nicolo Amati, he set up round the corner in the same 
street as the brothers Guarnerii, and almost next door 
to them, in the square opposite the great Church of 
S. Domenico. From about this time connoisseurs notice 
a great improvement in Stradivari's technique ; but up 
to 1672 at least, remaining a close copyist of Amati, 
he doubtless kept on terms of the closest intimacy 
with Nicolo, now in his decline, and benefited by the 
abundance of orders flowing in for Amati violins which 
the old master was unable to execute. 

From 1660 to 1684 was a period of great activity, 
perhaps haste ; even some pot-boiling Stradivari violins 
may then have been made as the young family increased. 
Antonio's wood is often plain about this time, and not 
up to the best taste and selection of his master, but he 
evidently remained his right-hand man to the end ; and 
when Nicolo died, at the ripe age of eighty-eight, he 
left all his tools and his plant not to his son Girolamo, 
then about thirty-five, but to Antonio Stradivari, then 
just forty years old. 

In 1680, four years before the death of Nicolo, 
Antonio had so far prospered as to be able to buy his 
house (which I visited in 1880), at 1 Piazza Eoma, for 
about 800. Desiderio Arisi, a Cremonese, has left an 
interesting MS. in which he speaks of "his intimate 
friend Antonio Stradivari" The MS. is dated 1720, 
or seventeen years before the death of Stradivari. 


Arisi alludes to a point of great interest which early 
excited my attention and curiosity the many-sidedness 
of the man. "In Cremona," writes Arisi, "is also 
living my intimate friend Antonio Stradivari, an ex- 
cellent maker of all kinds of musical instruments" In- 
deed, he could make anything that was in demand, and 
he did ; he could " fancy -purfle " to order, inlay, make 
fiddles in odd shapes, or with a twist in the curve 
here or there, or longer or shorter for experiment, or 
hig or small. 

The Marquis Carlo dal Negro of Genoa owned a 
Stradivari harp in 1820. The master was not above 
making mandolines and lutes to order. Messrs Hill 
own a perfectly plain Stradivari guitar in fine con- 
dition. It is of exquisite close-grained wood. I have 
often wanted to hear the sound of that guitar. I 
noticed a Stradivari cithern in the South Kensington 
Loan Collection with an elaborately carved female head 
of great beauty. I did not wonder that he who could 
carve such scrolls could carve a head or anything else. 

There are, or were, within the present century, other 
gems of workmanship, some of which it is to be feared 
have perished, children's fiddles, instruments made with 
small figures, flowers, arabesques. Everything that 
comes from his hand is finely accurate in drawing. 
Sometimes his decoration is merely painted in black, 
sometimes ivory, ebony, or mother-of-pearl is used, 
but everything Stradivari did was perfectly done; he 
qualified himself to the ?ith, as mathematicians say, for 
each branch of his art. 


In these days one man draws, another blocks out, 
another inlays, another finishes. Stradivarius did all, 
and did all consummately well. His heads and ara 
besques are worthy of Cellini, his inlaying of the finest 
Florentine marqueterie; his scrolls and curves are of 
Pheidian beauty ; his varnishing is his own. 

On the death of Amati, Stradiuarius and the Guar- 
nerii had the Cremona market to themselves, and 
whilst the competition was quite wholesome, there is 
no reason to suppose that their rivalry was other than 
a friendly one. They had all been brought up to- 
gether, they had worked as boys together, they had 
doubtless lent each other tools, touched up each other's 
backs and bellies, varnished each other's ribs, criticised 
each other's scrolls from boyhood; and now that the 
Cremona violin was in the ascendant, and kings and 
nobles from Spain, France, Germany, Saxony, and 
even England were anxious for Cremona fiddles, there 
was a market for them all. 

The bitterness of competition is not always due to 
rival makers, but often to over-production ; and such 
a thing as over-production of fiddles in those days 
was unknown. Nay, the orders that came in could 
not be executed fast enough. Music walked faster 
than the instruments could follow it. When the 
King of Poland wanted a Strad violin he knew his 
man, and sent his Capelmeister Voleme to Cremona, 
with orders to stop there and bring back the twelve 
violins ordered for the court orchestra. "So," says 
Arisi, "Voleme arrived in 1715 on the 10th June, and 



remained there three months, and when all the instrti* 
ments were ready he took them with him to Poland." 

But at this time Stradivari was at his zenith. 
"There is not in the world," writes Lorenzo Gius- 
tiniani, a Venetian nobleman, to the great artificer in 
1715, "a more skilled maker of musical instruments 
than yourself, and as I wish to preserve a record of 
such an illustrious man and famous artist, I trouble 
you with this letter to ask whether you feel disposed 
to make me a violin of the highest quality and finish 
that you can bestow upon it." 

But we must not anticipate. 

After the death of the illustrious Nicolo Amati, 
this patient pupil, this careful copyist, this accurate 
and tireless student and experimentalist, begins to 
assert his strong individuality. His scroll departs 
from the feminine Amati type, and becomes striking 
and independent, his sound-holes recline more, his 
corners are pronounced, his middle bout curves are 
prolonged, his varnish is almost fancifully varied from 
rich gold to soft velvety red. His wood is now in- 
variably chosen with the utmost care, and as he made 
chiefly for the nobility, royalty, and the higher clerical 
dignitaries, he was not only on his mettle, but he could 
afford to work just as he chose. 

In 1682, Michele Monzi, a rich Venetian banker, 
sent him an order for a chest of violins, altos and 
'cellos, which were to be presented to our King 
James II. They were so much liked that his Majesty 
ordered a viol di gamba of Stradiuarius in 1686. 

PLATE V (to face page 67) 

The Rode and Spanish violins and the Spanish tenor, 
it will be observed, are all inlaid. Strad was no bigot, 
and although we may confidently assert that he disap- 
proved of all inlaying or decoration on the bellies or 
backs, and confined it to its narrowest limits when re- 
sorted to in lieu of the usual strip of purning, he pro- 
bably judged that if it did not encroach upon the 
vibratory surfaces much beyond a common purfle, it 
was comparatively harmless. It is likely that the Rode 
Strad, whoso history I am unable to record, was made 
for Royalty or some great Prince Cardinal of the 
Church, the extra decoration being considered due to 
the high rank of the patron, or wrought in obedience 
to a special request. We have many evidences that 
Strad was not above pleasing the individual whims of 
his clients. He was himself an expert carver, and 
could inlay with the best of them when he chose. The 
Rode Strad Avas sold to Messrs Hill by M. Lamoureux, 
the eminent French conductor, and by them to Dr Old- 
ham of Brighton. The Strad 'cello is a good specimen 
of Strad's improved bass model. The size is brought 
down characteristically, and the comparative small- 
ness of the upper, contrasting w r ith the ample develop- 
ment of the lower part, gives the instrument an ap- 
pearance of lightness and grace; whilst the delicate 
and somewhat narrow head, with its sufficiently mas- 
sive and finely cut out scroll, admirably balances the 
whole to the eye with a certain "chic" quite a la 


In 1685, Cardinal Orsini, afterwards Pope Benedict 
XIII., had ordered a violoncello and two violins of him, 
besides making him " one of his private attendants," an 
honorary title, but equivalent to appointing Stradiu- 
arius instrument-maker to the Cardinal Archbishop. 
We commend this fact to his Holiness Pope Leo XIII. 
(1897), who has lately placed the violin on his index 
expurgatorius of instruments, as being too frivolous 
for the solemnities of divine service! Yet Pius IX. 
was a pretty good fiddler. 

In 1687 Stradivari makes his famous set of instru- 
ments for the Spanish Court, inlaid with ivory, with a 
scroll-work running round the sides. One of these 
rarities a violin found its way into the hands of Ole 
Bull, the famous violinist. It has been since sold in 
England to Dr Charles Oldham of Brighton. The 
tenor is, I believe, in existence. When last in the 
market, it had lost its ivory purfling, which has since 
been exquisitely replrced by Messrs Hill. 

There are extant several very small violins made 
evidently to order about this period. The fallacy of 
different sizes for different ages from childhood upwards 
is one which will always smile to makers and those acute 
persons who teach the violin and buy their pupils' in- 
struments, which of course have to be changed as the 
children grow up, for larger and larger ones. I have 
always protested against this. A child of eight had 
much better play the violin like a violoncello (at the 
age of seven, as I did myself) than be given a small 
one; but when I was eight I could hold a full-sized 


violin to my chin not quite in the correct position, no 
doubt, but near enough. Thus from the very first, 
when at six or seven years of age, I played the violin 
like the violoncello, I never had to unlearn my intervals 
in stopping the strings. The "brain learns intervals. 
An habitual tenor player never plays the violin quite 
in tune, and vice versd ; and so every time a larger violin 
is placed in the pupil's hands, the brain is bothered with 
the narrower stopping learned in the preceding period. 
Still, no one can regret the exquisite cabinet, almost 
toy specimens, made by the Amati and Guarnerii as 
well as by Strad. Artistically they are gems ; musically, 
fallacies. I have never got anybody to agree with me 
about not using dwarf fiddles. Joachim, I believe, con- 
tended that for a child to use a large fiddle stiffens 
his muscles. I don't believe it; it certainly did not 
stiffen mine. I believe I am also in a minority in my 
partiality for old bridges. Neither theory is, in fact, 
"good for trade." 

In 1690 Stradivari executed a celebrated order for 
the Prince of Tuscany, through the Marquis Bartho- 
lomeo Aribati. Of these chefs-d'oeuvre the Marquis 
writes: "I assure you the Prince has accepted your 
instruments with more pleasure than I could expect. 
The players in the orchestra are unanimous in express- 
ing appreciation. They declare your instruments to 
be quite perfect ; they all say they never heard a violon- 
cello with such a tone as yours. My having brought 
to the knowledge of such a person as his Highness your 
great skill will doubtless procure you many orders from 

PLATE VI (to face page 69; 

This plate contains profiles of the three Strads shown 
in Plate V., and is interesting as displaying the variety 
exhibited in Strad's scroll carving. The Spanish 
Strad has quite an Amatise scroll, long, light, and very 
restrained, and undeveloped at the lower extremity. 
Notice the greater freedom of the Rode scroll, quite in 
Strad's best manner. The Rode model is also flatter 
in the back, but the bellies are all flat in the approved 
style, after the earlier Amati groove had almost en- 
tirely disappeared from the Cremona model. 


his exalted house" and then follow more orders for 
two tenors. On this occasion, we learn, from the relics 
of Stradivari in the possession of the Marquis della 
Valle, that the great violin-maker characteristically 
enough made the most beautiful cases for the royal 
instruments, decorating them profusely with armorial 
bearings and symbols appropriate to each instrument. 

The order was given in 1684, but the instruments 
were not handed in till 1690. The Grand Duke, it 
seems, came back for more, as there was found amongst 
his instruments a violin of the grand pattern bearing 
the later date, 1716. 

I cannot forbear to call attention to the exquisite 
chromo-lithographs of the Tuscan violin, and the lucid 
description and history of this last-named famous 
masterpiece, in Messrs Hill's handsome monograph. 
He declares it to be in the very finest preservation still, 
with an unbroken and authentic record, and to possess 
all the noblest qualities of the incomparable master. It 
is on the very verge of his great period, bearing the date 
1690, and was bought by Mr David Ker in 1794. The 
Tuscan viola and violoncello are still in the Institute 
at Florence, and I advise all lovers of Cremona who 
get the chance to go and inspect them. 

The only other point of great general interest before 
the year 1700, when Stradivarius enters on his golden 
period, is the deliberate manufacture of a certain num- 
ber of violins on a pattern distinct from the Amati, 
and from any patterns adopted by himself before 1686- 
1694, or after 1700. These instruments are known as 


long Strads, and they seem to be a sort of construc- 
tional or experimental link between the smaller Amati 
pattern and the grand Strad pattern of 1700-37 a 
model evidently suggested by the grand Nicolo, but 
not adopted by the cautious Strad till some years after 
Nicolo's death. . 

From 1694 to 1700 Stradivari not only went out of 
his way to make long Strads, which not only looked 
longer because they were narrower and pinched in, but 
actually were longer i.e. 14-inch, as compared to the 
1690 13 -inch Strad. In other respects also he walked 
through his own traditions. Having mastered all 
violin lore, he was evidently at last trying a series of 
daring experiments to settle in his own mind once and 
for ever certain problems of tone. 

We have known painters trifle with colour in the 
same way. Gainsborough would paint his blue boy, 
and Whistler symphonies in green, mauve, or anything 
else unexpected, and Turner would recreate the light 
that never was on sea or land ; but in reality it was no 
trifling, but study in arrangement of colour. So you 
can have study in construction, empirical ventures, and 
a testing of tone problems, whether in sound or colour. 

As Stradivari mused and carved, and glued and var- 
nished, year after year, his meditations might run thus : 
" Flatten the belly thicker here or there according to 
wood, density of fibre ; air column restrained by narrow 
width, as in the long pattern, but same cubic inches of air 
allowed for in length or height of ribs, only differently 
defined by different shapes of instruments, Enlarge 


width, thin planks, but try different thicknesses; see 
how different densities of wood go together. Try old 
seasoned wood for back, newer for belly, or vice versd; 
if wood hard, thin it; if soft, thicken it; try effect of 
higher ribs on flat curves; lower the ribs on more 
bulgy curves and grooved sides. What did Nicolo 
aim at with his grand pattern ? Adopt his width and 
size, and flatten his belly. Try and save his sweetness 
(did the grooves give that ?) with the flatter back and 
belly, which gives louder tone, adopting the mathe- 
matical curve of nature, suggested by the vibration of 
a string ; certainly that gives power. Is a joined back, 
or a back in one piece, best or indifferent ? That would 
depend on wood attainable. How would it be to patch 
bits of precious wood if inter-congenial? That gene- 
rally succeeds. A good secret that, but an open one 
wanted always the patcher ! " 

This idea of patching was certainly one of the most 
inspired thoughts that ever occurred to him. He seems 
to have kept wood of the finest acoustic properties for 
his best orders. He had favourite planks; we can 
trace one of these by a stain that runs through the 
grain, and the wood crops up again and again in some 
of his best fiddles. 

The plank must have been known to his pupils, for 
the remains of it were worked up after his death. 

"Now for the sound-bar," ponders Stradivari; 
"thick or thin, according to the density or elasticity 
of the back and belly. And its position? A little 
transverse, of course slightly diagonal to be in th$ 


line of vibratioD. Study effect on power of different 
strings by placing it a fraction of an inch one way or 
another ; place it slightly aslant for experiment. And 
the varnish?" But that will call for a few separate 
paragraphs by-and-by. 

I have tried to indicate the kind of observation and 
meditation, demanding unlimited time, patience, and 
love, which Stradivari devoted for the better part of a 
century to his art, and without which those Cremona 
chefs-d'oeuvre, the Dolphin, the Messie, Tuscan, Betts, 
and Pucelle Strads, could never have come forth. 

I have alluded to Strad's taking late to the large 
Amati pattern for violins, inclining for some time to 
the small size. I do not know that any one has yet 
noticed that in violoncellos Strad reversed this order of 
work, making his early violoncellos large, and diminish- 
ing their size. As he reached his golden period he 
probably felt that the demands made by virtuosity 
and tone-power were quite alike consistent with a 
larger type of violin and a smaller and more manage- 
able size of violoncello. 

The violinist is well aware of the value of Strad's 
golden period, which will cost him gold; for, after 
about 1700, a fine Strad will be worth to him from 
1000 and upwards, according to its condition. 

The long apprenticeship was at last over, and in 
1700 the master had reached the ripe age of fifty-six, 
an age at which so many have achieved their greatest 
work. He was at the acme of his power, experience, 
and fame j no one could teach him anything now, and 


apparently he had nothing to learn. He could at last 
wield his tools as a Millais or a Tadema wields his 
brush, a Flaxman his pencil, a Canova his chisel, or as 
a Mozart or Wagner handles his score. He knew what 
he wanted, and he could do it, and do it with a spon- 
taneous ease and joy which seems even now to smile 
to us from the saucy corners of his bouts, the free 
daring curves of his grand pattern, and the lightly 
tossed and lifted scrolls. 

No one has failed to notice the masterful ease, the 
emancipation from all mannerism, the cool defiance of 
precedent and uniformity, and even symmetry, which 
characterises his great period from 1700 to 1730. 

The violins are not all alike. Strad knew that the 
secret was not merely in the pattern or shape ; he could 
vary his curves, and yet produce masterpieces, because 
he knew all about the air column, the wood densities, 
and the proportions and quantities which should be 
combined for the requisite result, and he could mix 
them differently like a master colourist. He no more 
treated every violin as if it had the same constitution 
than does a physician treat every human body alike; 
it is not so much nitrogenous or carbonaceous food, 
and so much liquid, but it is these and other things 
used in proportion, according to your digestion and 
temperament, which will produce in that instrument, 
your body, the harmony of health ; and how close is 
the analogy between the constitution of a violin and 
that of a human body how varied is the texture, the 
tissue, quality, fibre, and density of the component 


parts of each I have endeavoured to point out as 
succinctly as I could. 

So, in the grand period, the grand pattern Strads 
are all made with a trained, almost inspired instinct, 
according to those laws which govern the tone qualities 
aimed at ; but the fiddles are by no means alike to look 
at. They have the charm of imaginative variety, com- 
bined with the unity of supreme excellence. 

To this great period belongs the Dolphin Strad, so 
called, it is said, from the melting and almost iridescent 
tints of the varnish. To me, however, the violin almost 
suggests the life, freedom, and elegant poise of that 
graceful fish whose name it bears. The beauty and 
acoustic properties of the Dolphin wood are quite 
special, and can easily be compared with other violins 
of the same period, some of which are much plainer 
to look at, and somewhat different in form, and though 
very charming, hardly so bell-like in tone. 

The last time I had the privilege of touching the 
Dolphin Strad was at my lecture on violins before the 
Koyal Institution in 1880. I shall never forget its 
ringing notes and its exquisite sensibility. It seemed 
anxious to speak before it was spoken to ; when touched, 
it seemed to do all for itself like magic. Instead of 
the player showing it off, it shows off the player; he 
begins to feel he has nothing to learn in tone produc- 
tion. It is almost like sitting at those ingeniously 
contrived pianos that make elaborate music, and you 
merely have to put your hands on a dummy key- 
board, press the keys, and appear to be playing, and 


then you roll off Chopin and Mendelssohn perfectly, 
though you can scarce play your scales! Since then 
Vuillaume's sound-bar has been replaced with a stronger 
one by Messrs Hill. It seemed to me quite perfect 
before, but I suppose one must bow to experts in 
such matters. 

The best opinion limits the number of instruments 
which Strad made to about two thousand, only eight 
hundred of which at most are known to be extant. 
Compared with any other maker except Vuillaume, 
both as regards output and survival of work, Strad 
probably bears the palm. 

An elaborate description, a careful portraiture of 
every known Strad, together with its history, as far 
as recoverable, I must leave for some more gifted and 
industrious recorder. I believe Messrs Hill are pre- 
paring the most complete monograph on Stradivari 
which has ever yet or is ever likely to appear, and 
I only wish I could dip into their MS. and steal a 
few pages. It will certainly, when it appears, be a 
monumental work, and there is no time to lose, as 
many of these gems are known to have been destroyed, 
others dismembered, whilst some are at the bottom of 
the sea. There are, however, a few more famous speci- 
mens, which are of such unique interest that they cannob 
be passed over even in so general a survey as this. 

Mr Croall (1897) of Edinburgh is the happy owner 
of M. Artot's Strad, varnished dark red, quite perfect, 
and one of the finest known for tone ; it is dated 1716. 
Lady Halls' still plays on Ernst's violin, bought for 


500, and presented to her by the Earl of Dudley 
and some others. I shall never forget the wonderful 
effects elicited from it by the great magician Ernst 
in his palmy days, nor can I understand the statement 
recently made that its tone is difficult to elicit. I have 
heard the faintest vanishing whisper of its strings on 
the Covent Garden stage when, as a boy, I was seated 
up in the top gallery at one of Benedict's monster 
season concerts early in the fifties. 

A romantic interest attaches to two Stradivari violins 
which have come down to us in absolutely perfect con- 
dition : one is called the Messie, the other the Pucelle 
or the Virgin. 

The Messie was secured by Vuillaume after the death 
of that remarkable man Luigi Tarisio, to whom further 
on I devote a special section. It bears date 1716. 

Tarisio would never let it be seen till Vuillaume 
possessed it ; it had then never been touched or played 
upon. He lengthened the neck, but, without inserting 
his new neck, he fixed it to a block placed outside the 
ribs. Count Cozio de Salabue had bought it in 1760, 
but never allowed it to be played upon. 

Tarisio bought it after the Count's death, and at 
his own death in 1854 it passed to Vuillaume, and 
was exhibited (No. 91) in the South Kensington Loan 
Exhibition of 1872, and for the first time unveiled 
beneath glass to the gaze of admiring thousands. 

When I first saw the Messie I could not believe my 
eyes. It was covered throughout and uniformly with 
thick rich red-brown varnish, laid on with a firm brush, 


level and lavish. It seemed to have left the workshop 
only the day before; the anointed glitter of the fresh 
varnish was upon it, it looked hardly dry. It is of 
the grand pattern, but not heavy and massive like 
some of the great Del Gesu's, but beautiful as a 
Pheidian carving, full of a certain special grace and 
elegance. One"/" is a shade lower than the other 
a practice so common with Strad, especially in his later 
period, that it must have been intentional, his artistic 
eye not tolerating even the suggestion of mechanical 
uniformity. The Greeks worked similarly, no two sides 
of their Corinthian capitals ever quite matching. 

The "Messiah" back is in two pieces, the corners 
are absolutely unrubbed, and completely covered with 
varnish of no other specimen can this be said. The 
head is light and graceful, " the scroll/* as I have 
elsewhere observed, thrown off like a ribbon lightly 
curled about the finger, and drawn in, one side of 
the scroll cut a little lower than the other; the lines 
of the scroll are picked out with thick black paint; 
only faint traces of this remain in other violin heads. 
The black outline was artistically conceived, as it called 
full attention to the scroll curve, always so character- 
istic a part of violin physiognomy. 

As the Messiah recently bought by Mr Crawford 
of Edinburgh for 2000 has now been played upon, 
it seems a pity that the world should not sometimes 
be allowed to hear its voice ; and I venture to say that 
a well-advertised concert, in which two of our finest 
violinists should be invited to play on the Messiah 


and the Pucelle i.e., each player upon each instru- 
ment once, thus giving four solos, so that the audience 
might hear the same violins under different fingers 
would be an epoch in the musical world. The an- 
nouncement would doubtless pack St James's or any 
other London hall. 

The Pucelle or Virgin is the last Stradivari violin 
I have space to notice. The "Virgin" is so called 
because its interior organism had, up to the time when 
it came into M. Vuillaume's hands, not been interfered 
with i.e., the inside bass bar had never been touched. 
All the old violins have had these bars strengthened, 
and their necks lengthened, to meet the strain of the 
modern high-pitch tension of the strings on the belly, 
and the lengthened finger-board which the develop- 
ment of advanced virtuosity demands. 

These readjustments the Pucelle owes to Vuillaume. 
She is in fine preservation otherwise, although her 
varnish is a good deal rubbed in places. Her contour, 
so fanciful are even good judges, is by some considered 
more graceful than that of the Messiah, but less grace- 
ful by others. To me there seems to be little to choose 
between them ; each is a distinct conception. 

The Virgin's varnish is of a rich soft brown and 
yellow tone, rather contrasting with the Messiah's 
bright red. The head is stronger and less graceful 
than that of some Strads (the Dolphin's, for instance) ; 
the Virgin's back is in two parts, the belly is a little 
higher than that of the Messiah. The only vestige of 
repair about her is where the chin has rubbed into the 


purfling, which has accordingly been renewed. The 
corners are somewhat fancifully cut, running straight 
out in the top bouts, and hanging away in the lower 
bouts; there is a rather marked indentation of the 
curve beneath them. 

The Virgin is labelled 1709, and she reached Paris 
in 1840 (of course it is a Tarisio violin) ; it has been 
owned by Mons. le Eoy, a banker, and passed to his 
heir, Mons. Glanday. She is now the property of 
a member of the same family, and is very jealously 
guarded by her owner. 

In vain does imagination seek to recover the image 
of the great maker as he lived and moved and had 
his being through ninety-three years of shower and 
shine. Undisturbed by petty sieges and local dis- 
turbances and changes of administration, sought for 
and admired impartially by the friends and the foes 
of his country, he wrought out calmly his own match- 
less ideal. 

Violins have no politics, and the great republic of 
Art dominates the ages, and comprehends whilst it 
survives the rise and fall of dynasties and empires. 

I sometimes seem to see the grand old man standing 
at the door of his modest but comfortable house a 
tall, thin, perhaps rather gaunt figure, most likely not 
a man of many words, carrying on for ever mental pro- 
cesses connected with his subtle handicraft, seldom seeii 
without a chisel in his hand. 

Behold him just risen from his stool, or come round 
to superintend or criticise a carelessly cut scroll of 


Bergonzi, his best pupil; and before he goes up into 
that almost sacred attic, open to the air, at the top 
of the house, where hang the varnished fiddles and 
anointed strips a-drying, he mutters a rebuke or recti- 
fies a curve. 

The old man comes to the door, and stands for a 
moment looking down the street. He wears his woollen 
nightcap and his inevitable leather apron; he salutes 
the neighbours as they pass, but they do not stop to 
speak to him, they know he has no leisure for that. 
Only later, at the cafe*-cabaret, it may be, he will chat 
with Joseph Guarnerius, and exhort him to more re- 
finement; or tell his sons they will never uphold the 
reputation of the firm if they do not work harder ; and 
as it is known that the master detests interruptions 
at home, in those moments of rare leisure when he 
emerges with the regularity of clockwork to sip his 
vino or sirop or coffee, Capelmeister A. or Padre B. 
or Monsignor C. may surprise him for a chat, and 
inquire timidly when the violoncello or quartet of 
violins ordered are likely to be ready, and get for reply 
something too enigmatic or oracular to be of any ser- 
vice ; so patrons or patrons' emissaries had to sit down 
at Cremona and wait on the master's convenience for 
the masterpieces that could be got nowhere else. 

His prices seem to have been altogether moderate, 
but we must remember that the value of money was 
far greater in those days, a sovereign going then nearly 
as far as five go now. 

He sold his violins for 10 ( = 40); the original 


price of his violoncellos and violas does not seem to 
be known. 

Although he had a large family, he must have made, 
if not inherited, money, for there seems to have been a 
proverb cuurent at Cremona, " As rich as Stradivari." 

Some years ago, fresh from my visit to the house 
of Stradivari, then still standing in the Piazza Eoma, 
Cremona, I gave a full description of the great maker's 
entourage^ which I need not here repeat ; but a single 
paragraph may serve better than anything that I 
can now write, at the distance of over a decade, to 
place the reader in the atmosphere in which Antonio 
Stradivari worked for more than half a century. 

I stood in the open loft at the top of his house 
where still in the old beams stuck the rusty old nails 
upon which he hung up his violins. And I saw out 
upon the north the wide blue sky, just mellowing to 
rich purple, and flecked here and there with orange 
streaks prophetic of sunset. Whenever Stradiuarius 
looked up from his work, if he looked north his eye 
fell on the old towers of S. Marcellino and S. An- 
tonio, if he looked west the Cathedral with its tall 
campanile rose dark against the sky, and what a sky ! 
full of clear sun in the morning, full of pure heat all 
day, and bathed with ineffable tints in the cool of the 
evening when the light lay low upon vinery and hang- 
ing garden, or spangled with ruddy gold the eaves 
the roofs and frescoed walls of the houses. 

Here, up in the high air, with the sun his helper, 
the light his minister, the blessed soft airs his jour- 



neymen, what time the work-a-day noise of the city 
rose and the sound of matins and vespers was in his c 
ears, through the long warm days worked Antor 

Before the time came for the busy hand to f' ; l, 
Antonio ceased to sign all the violins that he m ; 
but, with an old man's natural pride, he continueu to 
sign a few down to the year of his death, registering 
the number of his years in each case, and it is from 
one of the latest of these, dated 1736, that we know 
his age. 

He sank quietly to rest, evidently worn out natu- 
rally and nobly, if not with his eye quite undimmed 
and his natural strength unabated, certainly still full 
of marvellous vigour, unpalsied senses, and undulled 

When the Chapel of the Eosary in 'the Church of 
S, Domenico, opposite to which he had lived all his 
life, was pulled down, his funeral tablet was rescued, 
and it is now in the Town Hall at Cremona; but 
where are his ashes ? Are they in the present family 
vault of the Stradivaris, in the Campo Santo of 
Cremona, or in the parish of S. Matthew? I was 
unable to ascertain. The tablet bears the following 
simple inscription : " Sepolcro di Antonio Stradivari 
E svoi Eredi, Anno 1729." 

Many of his family had preceded him to the grave, 
both of his wives and six of his eleven children, his 
last wife dying only nine months before him, a signifi- 
cant and painful event in a life so regular and unevent- 





PLATE VII (to face vacje 8 3> l 

A Panoramic View of Cremona, taken outside Porto 
Po from the banks of the river, and engraved about 
1830 by Caporali. Names of buildings, counting from 
the right of the print : 1. Church of S. Pietro ; 2. Tower 
of the old orisons near the Town Hall ; 3. Battisterio ; 

4. Cathedral; 5. Town Hall Tower; 6. Torrazzo, the 
Cathedral Tower, the highest in Italy ; 7. Church of S. 
Marcellino ; 8. Church of S. Domenico ; 9. Church of 

5. Agostino ; 10. Church of S. Lucca ; 11. Church of S. 
Omobono, patron of the town ; 12. Church of S. Agata ; 
13. Church of S. Ilario ; 14. Church of S. Luca. Signer 
Sacchi, a native of Cremona, has kindly identified all 
the above for me. 


ful, and one which may not unnaturally have hastened 
his own end. None of the family seem to have been 
buried in the S. Domenico vault, but in one belong- 
ing to Signer Francesco Vitani, in the parish of S. 
Matthew; so it may be Antonio lies there. 

The Church of S. Domenico was pulled down several 
years ago ; the house of Stradiuarius was destroyed only 
recently. The Piazza S. Domenico is now the Piazza 
Eoma, and when an average Cremonese is asked about 
Stradivari, he thinks of the fashionable avocat of that 
name, who appears to spend his time chiefly at Milan, 
and may possibly resent the notion that a man in good 
society should ever have had ancestors connected with 
fiddle-making. Sic transit. 

The achievements in violin-making up to the first 
quarter of the eighteenth century are clearly summed 
up in the names of Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe 
(del Gesu) Guarneri. 

It would be an interesting and thorny question to 
debate whether any variations of importance or addi- 
tions in excellence have since been noticeable, and 
of course we naturally look to the best Cremonese 
makers, who followed these giants of tone-power and 

The name of Carlo Bergonzi at once stands out as 
worthy, if not to be bracketed with that of the two 
mighty men, at least to receive their mantle and 
reflect something of their lustre. Carlo Bergonzi was 
Stradivari's favourite pupil; he lived next door, and 
afterwards occupied Stradivari's own house with his son, 


He finished many of his master's late violins, and 
issued some others after his death collected from the 
debris of the great man's workshop; and Stradivari 
left him all his tools and plant. 

He worked at Cremona between 1720-47 or 50, and 
followed at first Stradivari's example ; for as Antonio 
made his early fiddles on the pattern of Nicolo Amati, 
so did Bergonzi closely copy the grand Strad pattern. 
But later on, and before the death of the old man, 
Bergonzi conceived the ambition of attempting to weld 
the power of Giuseppe Guarnerius with the round, 
bright, bell-like sweetness of the Stradivari. To what 
extent he succeeded must be left to the judgment and 
decision of connoisseurs, but the grand quality for 
which his violins are increasingly appreciated is, no 
doubt, their powerful sonority; that he clearly saw 
must be the indispensable quality for all violins of the 

The old tinkling days were over ; the feeble, scraping, 
and muffled viol tone was a thing of the past. The 
instrument had finally emerged from the cloister, was 
no longer to be a mere adjunct to the voice in dim 
sacristies and cathedral choirs; its sphere henceforth 
was to be out in the wide, wide world, its triumphs 
were to be won in the concert room, the opera house, 
and the grand musical arenas of solo virtuosity. 

And so, undoubtedly, what Bergonzi aimed at was 
body of tone and carrying power, and he won it. This 
dominant idea has modified even his pattern. He 
looks bold and loud. Yet is the pattern not Guarneri, 


but Stradivari modified. Notice the larger breadth of 
the top curve, a certain bold angularity about the 
bouts, and a freer development of the lower part of the 
violin as well; the sound-holes set lower and nearer 
to the purfling, and the flat model which Stradivari 
discovered to be favourable to loudness. The scroll is 
also characteristic flatter in some places than that 
of his master, but made to look bold and full of self- 
assertion by reason of the strongly-defined and promi- 
nent curl of the ear, which stands out and at once 
challenges attention. 

The whole build is massive. The Bergonzi will 
outlast the Strad; it will be the survival, if not of 
the fittest, of the strongest. The very varnish is 
laid on with a lavish hand, to allow for wear and 
tear; it is even clotted in places, and is said in some 
specimens to have cracked and become scurfy. It 
is of a red Cremona brown, velvety, and quite the 
right sort. 

Until within the last few years Bergonzi has not 
received his dues ; the scarcity of his instruments may 
in part account for this ; but in France, and especially 
in England, he is now fully recognised and much 
sought after. There are, however, only about sixty 
authentic instruments of his known. His working 
life was but about twenty-five years. Two notable 
Bergonzi violins are those in the possession of Miss 
Eissler and Signor Simonetti. There is a famous 
Bergonzi double-bass of singularly fine quality now in 
possession of Mr I. Soars of Boston. In Count Cozio 


de Salabue's collection there were two very fine BergonzJ 
violins, dated 1731 and 1733. 

There were five other Bergonzis a son and grand- 
sons ; they all made fiddles, but they were of no account, 
and were far surpassed by some other makers who them- 
selves belong to the decline period of the Cremona 

Although I have called Bergonzi Stradivari's best 
pupil, it would be very unfair to ignore the merit of 
Lorenzo Guadagnini (1695-1740), the only one of that 
name who poses as a pupil of Stradivari. He was born 
at Piacenza, but lived at Cremona till about 1740. In 
about 1795 he removed to Milan after leaving his 
master at Cremona, but returned to die in his native 
town. His make is bold, his model flat, his varnish 
not so rich as his master's, his head original, but with- 
out the grace of Antonio. 

His son, Giovanni Battista, born at Piacenza, 1711- 
1786, made violins which are almost more highly 
esteemed than his father's. He imitated Stradivari 
perhaps more closely than his father, but Count Cozio 
de Salabue, who thought very highly of him and 
bought several instruments from him, is careful to 
mention that Giovanni Battista Guadagnini prided 
himself upon being no mere copyist. In fact, the 
Guadagnini in the hands of Mr Willy Hess is quite 
equal to the best of Lorenzo's work. He was always 
changing his place of residence, and wandered from 
Piacenza to Milan, and at last to Turin, where he died. 
His own explanation was that the envy of rivals made 


each town too hot for him, but his neighbours said 
that his frequent migrations were due to his own 
hot temper. There were seven Guadagninis who 
made violins between 1695 and 1881, but of these 
the first two, father and son, alone need be taken 
account of. 

It has been the fashion to separate the Italian 
makers into schools according to the place at which 
they happened to live the Milanese, the Venetian, the 
Neapolitan, the Bolognese, etc.; but it is much more 
important to notice the influences under which the 
chief makers worked than to identify them with special 

A Cremonese who works at Venice but carries the 
Cremonese traditions with him, is still a Cremonese, and 
belongs to the Cremona school. 

Thus, the "mighty Montagnana," as the novelist 
Charles Eeade called him, made Cremona violins and 
violoncellos at Venice. He worked between 1700-40 
as a pupil of Stradivari, and survived his master only 
three years. But he came to him when the Cremona 
art was already perfected, and studied the finest models, 
assisting in all probability at the very manufacture of 
the most wonderful instruments in the world. With 
such a training, on his arrival at Venice he easily took 
the lead and kept it, and to this day his instruments, 
especially his matchless violoncellos alas! too few in 
number are little if at all inferior to the best of 

Montagnana's outline is by no means a servile copy, 


of Stradivari. It is flattened at top and bottom, and 
seems to the eye less graceful ; but in his selection of 
wood, his glorious varnish, the relative thickness of his 
slabs, and in the cunning knowledge of those fibre den- 
sities in back and belly which are likely to sound well 
together, he is second to none. 

Montagnana no doubt embodies and transplants to 
Venice the Cremona secrets. As I noticed in the case 
of Bergonzi, Montagnana, owing to the paucity of his 
instruments as well as to the splendour of his contem- 
poraries, Strad and Giuseppe Guarneri, has not until 
lately received the honour which is due to him. He 
suffers, too, from having often been labelled Guarnerius 
or Bergonzi, makers who had the vogue of the day. 
These frauds are now being unmasked, and the few 
great successors of the Cremona giants, Bergonzi, 
Montagnana, Guadagnini, and Balestrieri (very fine in 
Guadagnini's style, flat, big build, powerful tone), and 
Storioni, have at last a chance of taking their proper 
places and fetching their prices. 

When we come to Lorenzo Storioni (1769-99) we 
come to the last maker of importance who can with 
any show of plausibility be called even a second or 
third rate master of Cremona. Storioni's model was 
Joseph Guarnerius, but he copied him more in his 
rough work than in his great qualities. In his varnish 
we notice the singular change which came over the 
Cremona varnish after about 1760. Up till then all 
the Cremona violins have the Cremona varnish ; after 
that time it simply disappears. Why is it? This 


interesting problem I shall have to consider in my 
chapter on Cremona varnish. 

Storioni's instruments are not much esteemed in 
England as yet, but are thought a good deal more of 
in Italy. 

I may here fitly mention the Gagliano family, who 
are associated with the Neapolitan school, but really 
derive their importance from Cremona. Alessandro 
Gagliano, the first of the name, was distinguished for 
his very fine red varnish, 1695-1730. A violin remark- 
able for its tone is the Gennaro Gagliano that has 
been used by Mr Otto Peiniger for solo purposes 
during many years. 

Alessandro Gagliano was actually in early life a bond 
fide pupil of Stradivari. Finding himself, no doubt, un- 
mercifully overshadowed by the prestige of the immortal 
workshops in the square of S. Domenico at Cremona, 
and being a person of native enterprise, Alessandro 
Gagliano migrated to the South, carrying with him the 
Cremona craft, and founded the so-called Neapolitan 
school. His model was, of course, the approved flat 
one of the golden age, 1700-37, but his scroll is 
small and rather mean, the // are set low down, and 
the work is sometimes lacking in finish. It is in the 
varnish of Alessandro Gagliano that we see some con- 
nection with Stradivari, his varnish very often being 
fine in colour and of the right texture. 

Attempts have been made to classify the various 
towns in which Italian violins were made during the 
Cremona period into schools, which is about as profit- 


able an occupation as the attempts to divide the work 
of individual makers into distinct periods one period 
runs into another, and one school runs into another. 

Koughly speaking, you find but two influences the 
Cremona, i.e., the Nicolo, the great Giuseppe and 
greater Antonio influence with its flat form, gentle 
curves, and red and yellow varnish ; and the German, i.e. t 
the Stainer model, of which I shall presently speak, with 
its elongated form, arched belly, deep side-grooves, and 
brown-yellow varnish. 

Some fine Venetian and Milanese makers like Mon- 
tagnana and Serafino inclined to Stainer, whilst the 
Eoman and Neapolitan adhered more to the Cremona 
type; but Stainer himself learnt at Cremona, and all 
the best men like Tecchler (Eome) and Gagliano 
(Naples) who went South copied either -Stradivari or 
Giuseppe Guarnerius. The Milanese school, on account 
of the great importance of the capital, naturally 
attracted good makers like Grancino, Testore (pupil 
of Grancino), and Pietro Giovanni Mantegazza (1687- 

Venice, Florence, and Bologna can also boast of a 
few respectable names, but I prefer, for the sake of 
completeness, to treat them later more in catalogue 
style, for the guidance of the student, and not to mix 
them up with the great central figures which have 
formed the subject, and I hope absorbed the attention, 
of the reader of this section. 



UP course, by this time, " every schoolboy/' to use 
Macaulay's famous phrase, knows that most things 
including, alas ! violins can be made in Germany 
faster and cheaper than anywhere else; and if we 
trust to German writers like Dr Shebek, we might 
almost believe that viols, not to say the violin, 
originated in Germany. 

I am quite willing to leave the viol origin an open 
question. If, on the one hand, Albert Durer and his 
father-in-law both made violins and dated back to 
1500, Benvenuto Cellini tells us that long before 1500 
his father made the finest Italian viols at Florence; 
and an ingenious writer has now unearthed a print 
by Maso Fineguerra, the father of engraving about 
1460, in which Thalia is represented playing on a 
small violin pochette or kit which, by the way, has 
rather upset the idea that the kit was a reduced 
violin, but seems to show, on the contrary, that the 
violin followed the kit instead of the kit following 
the violin, the kit being in reality a small violin. It 
is thus triumphantly argued by Mr Fleming that 
even the predecessor of, and every suggestion of, the 


violin came from Italy ; but in his ardour he fails to 
; notice that although an Italian print shows a woman 
playing on a kit, the kit she plays on might all the 
same have been " made in Germany." 

If I see an English picture with a tomahawk and 
a boomerang, I do not assume at once that the objects 
depicted were necessarily "made in England." 

But, as far as this book is concerned, such questions 
are of quite secondary importance. It is sufficient 
to notice that the first instruments possessing the dis- 
tinctive features of what we call the viola and the 
violin, as distinguished from the viol tribe, came from 
Brescia and Cremona; and that the greatest, if not 
the earliest, German maker, Jacobus Steiner or Stainer, 
is commonly reputed to have studied at Venice, or, as 
some say, learnt his art under Nicolo Amati at Cremona. 

As we approach the great figure of Stainer we are in 
the presence of a man who stands only second in popular 
estimation to the greatest of the Cremona masters. 
Indeed, so great a musician and eminent an authority 
as Sir John Hawkins writes in 1776: "The violins 
of Cremona are exceeded [ sic ] only by those of Stainer 
a German whose instruments are remarkable for a 
full and piercing tone*" Tho popularity of an English 
maker, Duke, who followed the German Stainer model, 
and whose fiddles were all the rage when good Sir John 
wrote, may have a little blinded his eyes to the Cremona 
chefs-d'awre few of which, if any, he had ever seen. 
But it is no small tribute to the power of the German 
that for at least a hundred years he retarded the due 


recognition of the Cremonas and gave a faulty direction 
to the violin pattern throughout England, France, and 

The arguments in favour of Stainer having visited 
Cremona in his early life rest a good deal on romance 
the story of his having been a pupil of the great 
Nicolo, whose daughter he is said to have refused to 
marry, is unreliable. Whether he went home or stayed 
at home and married the village belle whom he appears 
first to have compromised, and who bore him seven 
daughters and one son after marriage and one daughter 
before, it matters very little to us. 

Poems and novels have been written about this 
unhappy child of genius, but, as far as I can gather, 
the only reliable facts seem to be these, and they have 
been quite recently unearthed and sifted by Herr Euf, 
who died at Hall in 1877 : 

Jacob Steiner or Stainer was undoubtedly born at 
Absam, a village not far from HalL The townlet lay 
on the high-road between the Tyrol and Italy, and 
doubtless nothing that went on in the northern cities of 
Lombardy was long in finding its way to Hall, for mules 
and pedlars constantly carried all sorts of merchandise 
viols, and violins, and lutes amongst other things 
to and fro. The great argument against Steiner ever 
having received early instruction at Cremona seems 
to be that he affected the tubby raised bellies and 
deep side-grooves of the old German viols ; but it must 
be remembered that if as a boy he came under Nicolo 
Amati's influence, it was at a time when Nicolo him- 


self approached far more nearly the raised viol form 
than he did later on when his own model improved. 
The Steiner pattern is therefore consistent with all 
these theories: 

Firstly, that Steiner adopted the raised pattern 
which he found at Cremona, and which was then 
common throughout the violin -making world ; that, 
returning early to Absam, he adhered to it, and, 
perhaps from motives of national pride, accentuated 
it Grermano more. 

Secondly, that he visited Cremona later, when his 
own model was already formed, and was too proud 
to alter it. 

Thirdly, that German he was, and German he re- 
mained, and never went to Cremona at all. 

All these questions, upon which much ink and paper 
have been spent, remain more interesting to the anti- 
quarian than to the collector. Still, an indescribable 
interest and a deep human pathos seem to cling about 
the meagre facts of this remarkable man's life. 

Stainer's popularity was so enormous that ten times 
the number of violins he could ever have made have 
been attributed to him, and his name has been forged 
quite as often as that of the great Stradivari. 

Stainer married in 1645, and was appointed one of 
the Archducal servants, 1669 ; he advanced rapidly in 
favour, became violin-maker to the Emperor's court, 
and was turning out instruments as fast as he could 
make them, forming such admirable pupils as Klotz 


and Albani, when he fell a victim to the odium 

Heretical books were found in his possession, or 
heretical opinions were expressed by him, or both. He 
was, in fact, a Lutheran, and a Lutheran in Absam was 
far too near to the preserves of Mother Church, and 
very soon, like a hawk on a pheasant run, he was 
shot down. Stainer was also miserably in debt, and 
perhaps somewhat litigious, as people of genius and 
independence of character are wont to be. 

In 1677, having got out of prison, Jacobus petitioned 
the Emperor Leopold, whose prote'ge and employe* he 
had been, and who was a great musical amateur, for 
money. Leopold lost his opportunity ; unlike Ludwig 
of Bavaria, who won for himself an easy immortality 
by supplying Wagner with funds, Leopold turned a 
deaf ear to the immortal violin-maker. 

Stainer seems to have dragged on a wretched existence 
for six years longer, overburdened with care and debt. 
The attentions of his wife and eight daughters did not 
prevent him from going mad with worry and want; 
nay, a helpless and incompetent family may even have 
contributed to this so unhappy close of a splendid but 
blighted career. 

They show even now at Absam the bench to which 
the wretched man is said to have been bound when his 
paroxysms came on. He died in 1683, not only insane 
but insolvent. His wife died in great poverty six years 
afterwards, in 1689. 

There seems no room in this sad life-story for his 


sentimental retreat into a monastery on account of his 
inconsolable grief for the death (?) of his wife. Had 
she been such an inestimable blessing, we might have 
expected her to have kept her gifted husband alive, 
managed his household more thriftily, rescued him from 
his debts, moved the hearts of his great patrons, or at 
least saved him from going mad. 

But, on the other hand, eight daughters were doubt- 
less a trial to a couple who seemed always hard up ; and 
the one son, born in 1657 and dying in infancy, as we 
learn from a tombstone in the Pilgrims' Church at 
Absam, deprived the great artificer of a coadjutor who 
might have been interested in building up the firm, 
and, perhaps, brought into it those business faculties 
without which the most brilliant abilities in every de- 
partment of life so often make shipwreck: 

A certain Marcus Stainer, whose reputed date is 
about 1665-69, and who called himself citizen and 
violin-maker, it is difficult to connect with the illus- 
trious Jacob, although he has been called his brother, 
and some say he was a monk and actually assisted Jacob 
Stainer in the workshop. 

The great violinist Tartini is said to have possessed 
two of this man's instruments, called Peter and Paul. 

Veracini, another eminent soloist, is said to have lost 
both of them in a shipwreck. 

Herr von Keimer possesses a violin with label " Markus 
Steiner Burger und Geigenmacher, anno 1659" (not a 
very clerical label, by the way), and that is all that 
can be ascertained about this other Stainer; for of 


an Andreas Stainer, 1660, nothing but the name is 

So everything tends to keep the ill-fated genius Jacob 
apart. Alone he remains as the one important rival of 
the Cremonese school ; alone he stands at the head of 
all the Germans. Genuine Stainer instruments are 
rare; Stainer labels, copies, and forgeries are innu- 
merable, and one of the greatest curses of the fiddle 

The general look of a Stainer is so distinct from that 
of any maker except such as copied him, that it must 
arrest the attention of even a casual observer. 

The Stainer belly is much higher than the back, the 
rise is kept up through half its length ; the varnish is 
yellow (or as in the Elector Stainers), with a sort of 
pale-rose flush in it. 

The early pattern, deep Amati side-grooves, the long- 
shaped, beautifully thrown end of the scroll, sometimes 
a lion's head carved with the art of a Stradivari, the 
narrow purfling lying close to the sides of the strong, 
roundly moulded edges, the circular-topped sound-holes 
rather shorter than the Cremonese, peg-box often dark 
brown, contrasting with the palish-yellow belly such 
are the leading characteristics of the great Jacob. 

His earlier specimens bear varnish something akin to 
the Amatis ; they are also of the smaller pattern. A 
good example of them is one in the possession of Mr 
Kussell of Bedale, Yorkshire, dated 1645. 

Jacob's finest type may be seen in the famous Elector 
Stainer ; of these he is said to have made twelve, ono 



for each of the Electors. The popular legend refers 
them to his Benedictine monastery, but there is no 
shadow of proof that he ever was there at all ; perhaps, 
however, if one Markus Stainer who is reputed to have 
made Peter and Paul was a monk, he may have been a 
Benedictine monk, and as the obscure G-uarneri who 
did get locked up seems to be responsible by trans- 
ference for the great Joseph del Gesu's legendary 
incarceration, so Monk Markus may do duty for 
J. Stainer's reputed sojourn and residence in a Bene- 
dictine monastery. It matters very little when the 
Elector Stainers were made; most connoisseurs are 
agreed that the two quite authentic " survivals of the 
fittest " are miracles of workmanship, beauty, and the 
perfection of Stainer tone. 

The Stainer tone! What is there about that tone, 
which for 150 years so fascinated the musical world 
as to dull the perceptions of so experienced a professor 
as Sir John Hawkins to the more exquisite timbre of 
the finest Cremonas ? No one but myself is responsible 
for the following conjecture. 

Perhaps there is less tonal difference between the 
early Amati and the later Strad than between the 
early Amati and the full-blown Stainer; and it may 
have been the sharp, pungent contrast the type of 
tone that was quite new, as it were an original 
creation which at once arrested and held the ear of 
that epoch. For, after all, musicians in the seventeenth 
century were only beginning to be cultivated in the 
delicate appreciation of tone nuances. The proof of 


this would not be far to seek. It is quite notorious, 
though to us amazing, that the differences between 
the Amati, the Strad, the Guarnerius, and the Ber- 
gonzi or Euggerius, should not have been more clearly 
apprehended. When, for instance, a man an orches- 
tral leader, too had bought a Euggerius and paid for 
a Joseph, we do not find that he was dissatisfied with 
it until he discovered that the label was false. The 
superb qualities of the great Joseph have been appre- 
ciated only since the Strad craze ; but the world-wide 
cult of Strad dates from Tarisio, who began his work 
of violin exploration and discovery in 1827, dying only 
in 1854. But any tyro would be arrested by the clear, 
sharp, biting tone of Stainer. A violinist in the 
orchestra could make his Stainer cut through all the 
first fiddles, and once the taste for that sort of tone 
was excited, it would be to the ear what curry, or 
vinegar, or quinine bitter, or absinthe is to the palate. 
The Stainer tone is a sort of drastic, stinging stimulant 
to the ear, almost an intoxication ; and the ear that has 
been once caught by it craves for it, and misses it even 
in the loud richness of Joseph, the exquisite velvety 
timbre of Amati, or the superb ringing brightness of 
the great Antonio. 

Thus, in his own original way, Stainer met the cry- 
ing want of his age for loud and piercing tone. He 
was the very antipodes of the tubby, muffled sound of 
the old viols. With a bound he reached the opposite 
pole. The coarse ears of the multitude were at once 
tickled and "grise"," as the French say, by his wiry 


intensity; and soloists soon found that it was an 
immense help to wield a novel and stinging timbre 
which, without any special gift of theirs, awakened 
attention like the roll of a drum, or the blast of a 
cornet, or the tinkle of a triangle. 

These considerations alone, in my opinion, account 
for the popularity of Stainer in all ages ; the bulk of 
hearers belong to the musically untrained, who like 
pungency, and desire above all to have their ears 

Just in proportion as music developed and the 
musical ear got trained to higher and higher refine- 
ment, so that specialities of tone became a cult for 
the ear, as specialities of colour for the eye, just in 
that measure did the great and subtle qualities of the 
Cremona school emerge, whilst the rage for Stainer, 
Klotz, and Duke declined. 

I have no wish to disparage these last-named fine 
artificers. The increasing rarity of their instruments, 
and the really splendid qualities which we grant un- 
grudgingly to the best of them, must always make 
them much prized, and I fully expect that in a few 
years there will be a revival of the Stainer craze, and 
that his violins may then touch Cremona prices. I 
shall be very glad if they do ; it will mean that at last 
we shall get something like a definite sifting of this 
great master's best specimens, and that in this shaking 
in auction rooms, and in the cabinets of collectors, the 
forged parasites and impudent copies which have for 
years sailed under false colours labels (libels, I mean) 


will fall off into the limbo of violin refuse and other 
things " made in Germany." 

The best pupils and followers of Stainer were Klotz 
and Albani ; but as it became the fashion to dub every 
one who made respectable violins in Germany about 
that time, and showed traces of the Stainer model, 
" pupils " of the great man, modern writers have grown 
properly cautious about dogmatising. 

If all Stainer's reputed pupils had really worked with 
him, they ought certainly to have married his eight 
daughters and relieved him of some of his heavy family 

Sebastian Klotz or Kloz (1675) and his son Mathias 
(1696-1709) made excellent violins, and some prefer 
the son's to the father's. There were, besides, four 
other Klotz, relationship uncertain. Sebastian of Mit- 
tenwald visited Florence and Cremona; but although 
when he returned to his native town he announced his 
intention of making a second Cremona of Mittenwald, 
he and his family adhered mainly to the Stainer 
model, and reproduced very successfully the Stainer 
tone. Vidal says that his sons inundated Germany 
with false Stainers. Of the great violin manufactory 
which, on the suppression of the Mittenwald Fair in 
the seventeenth century, is said to have revived the 
commercial prosperity of the town, no trace now re- 
mains ; but it is certain that, whilst the Klotz family 
lived and worked, a pretty steady stream of pseudo- 
(or scuola) Stainers poured forth from Mittenwald till 
about the year 1750. 


The Albani family, like the Tecchler, stand mid- 
way between the Cremona and the Absam school, but 
Albani pere (1621-73) was certainly Italian, though 
he was born and lived at Botzen, in the Italian 
Tyrol, where he made German fiddles in the Italian 
style and for the Italian market, although his son 
Joseph was also bitten with the Cremona modeL 
Albani's violins pass for Italian; they are varnished 
red, and rival the Amati tone, and the Joseph 
Albanis are more highly esteemed than the violins 
of Albani pere. 

It is further significant of Albani's popularity in 
Italy, that the most accomplished maestro and com- 
poser of the early part of the eighteenth century, Corelli, 
played on an Albani. This appears certain from an 
examination made by Mr Arthur Hill of the will of the 
late William Corbet, who had a large collection of rare 
fiddles, and disposed of them in his will, where mention 
is made of an Albani fiddle, which he left with the 
memorandum that it had belonged to Corelli. This 
is a very interesting example of a carefully excavated 
fact, and does Mr Arthur Hill great credit. 

Tecchler, also called a pupil of Stainer, is perhaps 
most esteemed for his violoncellos, the best of which 
run the Strad 'cellos very hard. A very fine Tecchler 
'cello is in the possession of Mr E. W. Hennell (1898), 
and there are several others in this country. Tecchler 
seems to have made few, if any, violins, which is strange, 
as his master made few, if any, violoncellos ; he worked 
in Borne between 1695 and 1735. His instruments 


are sometimes rather cumbrous ; his varnish is yellow, 
like Stainer's. 

The subsequent history of "violins made in Ger- 
many" is, to say the least, very mixed; nothing so 
good as Stainer was done there before him, and nothing 
equal to him has been done there since. 

The golden age of German violin-making begins and 
ends with Jacobus Stainer. 



ITALY and Germany have to look back to their golden 
age, but it seems as if France and England had to look 

France and England have never yet gone beyond 
a doubtful silver age, but there is good reason to 
think that the manipulation and alchemy of time, 
whilst thinning out by wear and tear and loss the 
older gems, will not only transform the - Piques and 
Lupots, and perhaps the Vuillaumes and Chanots, but 
also the Banks, Forsters, and Fendts, and probably 
the Dukes and Hills, into golden quality, with very 
advanced prices ; and so, instead of being, like Artemus 
Ward's future, behind them, they may still be found 
to have their future "before them. 

The French work contemporaneous with the Cre- 
mona period is not nearly so interesting, nor do the 
makers appear to have been nearly so capable as the 
men who followed them towards the close of the 
seventeen hundreds. This is no doubt accounted for 
by the streams of violins pouring out of the Italian 
and German workshops, the superior reputation of 
Cremona, which drew at once the patronage of the 



Spanish and French Courts, and perhaps the small de- 
mand for stringed instruments in France compared with 
the huge demand in Italy and throughout Germany. 

So there was a poor market as yet for French work. 

In Italy, in the luxurious little Duchies and Princi- 
palities, as well as in the churches, and in Germany in 
the small Electorates, each of which supported its band 
and gave an indirect impetus to the churches, Keformed 
and Koman Catholic, violin-making flourished, and so 
it came to pass that Italy and Germany made for all 
the world. 

The Cremona period in France can boast of but 
two considerable names, Jaques Boquay (1705-30) and 
Pieray (1700-25). Boquay worked on the early Cremo- 
nese model, which had already been left behind by 
the modified forms of Stradivari (1700 great period). 
His violins have not yet reached a high selling figure, 
but may possibly rise; they are by no means scarce; 
his varnish is reddish-brown, transparent, warm and 
soft. He reverted to the Jerome Amati type, arching 
even a little more than Jerome. 

The quality of his tone is good, but it lacks power, 
which in these advanced days tells against him except 
for cabinet playing. 

Claude Pieray (1700-25) worked in Paris, and fol- 
lowed the later Amati contour, but he was far enough 
removed from the Cremonese influence to follow a line 
of his own. Whilst varying, some think capriciously, 
the thickness of his wood, and not always securing 
the best quality of wood, he varnished pale red, and 


turned out a small and large pattern ; but he evidently 
inclined to the larger pattern of the late Amati 

A violin of Pieray's was advertised in the sale of 
Tom Britton, the musical coal-heaver, as "a very 
beautiful violin, and as ffovd <M a Cremona" which 
shows that even at that date the Stainer influence, 
then so strong in England, had not dimmed the fame 
of Cremona. However, it would of course have been 
absurd to compare him to Stainer, the affinity between 
Pieray and Amati being too obvious. 

But the really great silver-gilt if not golden age of 
French violin-making dawned with Lupot (1736-58), 
was extended by Pique (1788-1822), Vuillaume (1798- 
1875), Chanot (1801), Gand (1802), and Aldric (1792- 
1840), famous for his varnish ; and Fent,* an admirable 
copyist, whose violins often sell as Lupot's copies of 

The labours of these great French disciples of 
Cremona, copyists and occasional forgers as they were, 
are sufficient to decide for ever the superiority of the 
Strad model over all others. Their lives were chiefly 
occupied in reproducing the unique Antonio minutely 
without attempting the least modification of the ulti- 
mate Cremona form, which he had defined. 

The firm of Lup6t, immortalised by Nicolas Lupot 
(1758-1824), dates back to 1696 or somewhat earlier. 
The father and grandfather of Nicolas Lupot resided 

* This Fent is no relation, as far as is known, to the family working 
in England, whose name is spelt Fendt 

PLATE VIII (to face page 106) 

These portraits of Tourte and Lupot, being fully 
dwelt on in the text, need no further comment. 


at different times at Plombiers, Luneville, and Orleans, 
but Nicolas was born at Stuttgart in 1758. He 
returned to Orleans in 1770. 

Nicolas Lupot was a man of great discernment, and 
not carried away with the fashion of the times. Al- 
though during the first twenty years of his life he 
must have seen and heard the German model of Stainer 
extolled, neither his own work nor yet his father's 
show any leaning towards it. His eye was enamoured 
with the Stradivari grand pattern, and his best violins 
are such loving and faithful copies of the great An- 
tonio that many amateurs and some professional 
judges have been deceived by them. But Lup6t [ 
never got rid of the glassy, chippy French varnish, j 
and although his warm orange tints are generous ) 
and the varnish has been laid on with a lavish hand, 
the rubbing bare by time of a Lupot is very different 
from that fading away upon the fibres of a Strad, 
where always a subtler film protecting the wood 
seems to linger, a sort of mist of varnish to the end. 

But Nicolas Lupot was a great workman, and, as 
Hamlet modestly puts it, " indifferently honest " that 
is, honest as violin copyists go. He did not imitate, 
he copied, and varnished throughout; he never aged 
his copies prematurely, or tried to take in buyers; 
he reverenced his great Cremona model too much to 
palm off his own work as those of the master. Of 
course his violins have rubbed since and aged since, 
but they have aged and rubbed honestly, and are 
every year increasing in value, and distinctly mellowing 


in tone and sensitive quality. The moment Nicolas 
Lupot arrived in Paris, early in this century, his talents 
were recognised ; orders flowed in, and he remained 
and remains without a rival in the French school 

He was appointed maker to the Paris Conservatoire, 
which involved the manufacture of the annual prize 
violin to be presented to the gold medallist of the 
year, and to this academic privilege we are doubtless 
indebted for some of his finest efforts. A violin 
which would annually at the time be associated with 
one of the chief musical events of the year, and come 
under the criticism of all musical Paris, would cer- 
tainly call forth the mettle of one who admittedly 
"took the cake," but was not without formidable 

One of these rivals was Pique. He was in the habit, 
it is said, of buying Lupot's fiddles unvarnished, 
varnishing them, and labelling them with his own 
name. He had better have left the varnishing alone 
and contented himself with a fraudulent label. It 
is surprising that he should have stooped to such a 
device. Pique is quite a considerable person, second 
only to Lupot as a maker. He must have been 
influenced by commercial considerations, but his dis- 
honesty is a great tribute to the superior popularity 
and merit of Lupot, Still Pique was so clever that 
he could have afforded to be honesk 

Francois Gand, who entered as Lup6t's pupil in 1802, 
was much beloved by his master. He became his best 


pupil, married his daughter, and succeeded to his busi- 
ness in the Eue Croix des Petits Champs in 1824. 

Time has invented a new industry the art of repair- 
ing which FranQois Grand raised to a veritable fine art 
(Mennegand, Kolliker, Eambeaux and W. Ebsworth Hill 
have since rivalled him). Pique would join and split 
mutilated grain in such a way that, without the aid of 
a microscope, the patch or closed fissure cannot be 
spotted. He would spend days over mending a crack ; 
it became with him a sort of passion of ingenuity. 

It was almost worth breaking a fiddle to have it 
mended by Gand, and his exquisite skill and profound 
knowledge as a repairer no doubt gave rise to the 
common but risky notion that an old violin was im- 
proved by being mended, as some surgeons pretend 
that a skilful operation will not only prolong life, but 
positively improve the constitution. The firm of Gand 
and Bernadel is still of high standing in Paris. The 
violins of Franois are useful and solidly built, but 
lack altogether the Italian grace and finish of his 
master, Lupot. 

Pique (1788-1822) is by "some held to have run Lupot 
very hard as a copyist of Stradivari Pique avoids at 
once the error of the vulgar copyist, who cannot refrain 
from emphasising the peculiarities of his model, and 
the sin of the brazen forger, who bakes and rubs, treats 
with acids, and simulates the cracks and the wear and 
tear of time. But Pique had some conscience. He 
may have passed himself off as Lupot, but at least he 
never posed as Stradivari 


Those conversant with Pique's instruments observe a 
very high and conscientious finish throughout. Spohr, 
the violinist and composer, played for many years on a 
Lupot, and was never, tired of extolling both Lupot 
and Pique. Pique died in 1822, two years before 
Lupot, and his violins improve every year, and will 
by-and-by fetch prices second only to those of Lupot, 
which are already up to 200 (1897). 


If I were to seek for an appropriate pendant to the 
figure of William Ebsworth Hill in London, I could 
not find a better one than Jean Baptiste Vuillaume of 
Paris. Yet the two men were very different; the 
careful, neat, systematic enthusiast, with a shrewd eye 
to business, and the dreamy worker always apparently 
in the midst of a chaos of material, out of which he 
alone could select at a moment's notice what he re- 
quired ; the ready purveyor of whatever sort of article 
happened to be wanted, and the careless distributor of 
his wares, who forgot what he owed his customers, and 
kept them waiting for months ; the clever copyist, the 
reverent repairer, the ingenious brain for ever evolv- 
ing new sorts of bows, fiddle shapes, screws; and the 
idolater of the old forms, who had so firmly grasped 
the truth that violins and all that belonged to them 
had culminated at Cremona before the middle of the 
eighteenth century, that he never aspired to invent 
anything new or alter anything old ; the Parisian, who 

PLATE IX (to face page no) 

These portraits of Vuillaume and Ebsworth Hill, 
being fully dwelt on in the text, need no father comment. 


made many fiddles, and died rich ; the Londoner, who 
made few fiddles, but repaired innumerable antiques, 
and died with but a moderate competence. The force 
of contrast could go no further ; nay, you can look at 
the two men's faces, and see the secret of their characters 
writ plain enough. 

I can remember old Hill's dreamy gaze, peering at 
me with screwed-up eyes through his spectacles. You 
were nothing in particular to him, duke or pauper ; it 
was your fiddle that gave you the importance or the 
reverse in his eyes. But look at Jean Baptiste Vuil- 
laume's portrait it lies before me as I write: the 
jaunty embroidered and tasselled velvet skull-cap, the 
well-arranged black satin tie, the well-cut coat, the 
grave sharp look and keen eye, not dreaming at all, 
but taking everything in at a glance; the mouth a 
little aslant, as we often see it in men of speculative 
and ingenious minds ; the firm fine nose, and the strong 
quiet face, but a face that betrays a mind ever alert, 
capable of dominating its owner's gifts, his customers, 
and the market generally, whilst the man was genuinely 
devoted to the art and craft which made him great, 
and rich, and famous. Yes, the two great connoisseurs 
might well hang side by side in twin frames, for they 
are two types, united by a like enthusiasm and speciality 
of craft and knowledge, but differently interesting, 
variously unique each in his own way. 

Both were hereditary violin-makers, and the tendency 
I had almost said the cult was born and bred in 
the blood. 


Vuillaume was early saturated, in his fathei's work- 
shop at Mirecourt, with all the secrets and arts of the 
trade, long before he served his apprenticeship. But 
Paris drew the young fellow, then only nineteen, with 
an irresistible magnetism. 

Victor Hugo, that typical Parisian of Parisians, has 
somewhere described the Frenchman's inborn love of 
his capital, the centre to him of life, art, pleasure, 
movement, industry, and invention. So to Paris must 
your Jean Baptiste go. But to whom? to whom 
but Chanot (Francis), incomparable worker, copyist, 
forger, suitable adept, indeed, for such a bright novice. 

With Chanot, Vuillaume remained till 1821, when 
he went over to Le'te', the organ-builder, who also 
dabbled in fiddles, and was glad to have at his 
beck and call as a foreman such a specialist, with all 
the experience of Mirecourt and the craft of Chanot 
at his back; in fact, he lost no time in taking the 
young man into partnership, and the partner throve so 
well that he married in 1828, being then just thirty 
years old. 

Things ran smoothly with Vuillaume; his wife did 
not drink, or abuse him, or waste his money. His home 
was happy, and, in the sunshine of domestic peace, his 
talents expanded in the direction of that growing 
market which was created by the taste for old fiddles, 
excited by Tarisio, and supplied by the not always 
scrupulous skill of Chanot. 

But Vuillaume went one better than Chanot. Cha- 
not's trick was to produce such deceptive copies or 


patch with counterfeit backs and bellies of his own 
or to forge downright a whole antique, to be foisted 
upon some unwary but ill-informed enthusiast. But 
Vuillaume, to his honour be it said, soon discerned 
that the world at large could not be won by fraud, 
but that men were the slaves of imagination and senti- 
ment. This timely and philosophic discovery made 
him famous and wealthy, almost at a bound. He 
loved the old Italian fiddles; he had the best oppor- 
tunities of seeing them; his admirable technique 
enabled him to copy them accurately to counterfeit 
the wear and tear, even the cracks and worm-holes, the 
inlaying, the rubbed varnish, the old wood; and for 
about five pounds, or even less, he proposed to provide 
people with new fiddles, which looked like old ones worth 
fifty or a hundred pounds. 

The device succeeded beyond the dreams of avarice. 
Orders poured in faster than they could be executed. 
Just look at the old man's face. Can you not see the 
shrewdness, betrayed by that slight pucker in the lip, 
which discovered and worked this now familiar ten- 
dency of human nature to possess what seems, if you 
can't afford to buy what is really good ? It is the secret 
of cheap art, shoddy satsuma, coarse blue china, com- 
mon silks, oleographs, and sham Palais Eoyal jewellery 
galore every bazaar reeks with it ; whilst the biggest 
warehouses are not above selling a made-up wine that 
deceives the palate, a walking-stick not ebony, only 
paint or stain, and furniture not really inlaid, but 
ditto ditto. So Vuillaume began early those amazing 



copies, chiefly of Stradiuarius, which even now deceive 
the innocent, and for a moment may even puzzle a 
connoisseur. Well, it was no doubt shoddy, but shoddy 
of the best sort ; shoddy raised to a fine art, like those 
roses so subtly made out of silk or cambric that we 
might easily pop them into water to prevent them from 

This new-found copying industry was a delight as 
well as a profit to the clever French craftsman. 

He loved a Cremona ; he copied it as men copy the 
old masters again and again, till they know every touch 
of the immortal workman, and revel in its reproduction. 

" I have completed," remarked Vuillaume in his de- 
clining years, " three thousand instruments, all sold, all 
paid for, and the money spent, and it affords me great 

like Ebsworth Hill, Jean Baptiste loved to do it all 
himself. Every instrument was varnished carefully by 
his own hands, and many are made throughout by him. 

But what is the actual merit of Vuillaume's violins ? 
Fine work, yes; admirable counterfeits, yes; but the 
great expectations raised by the appearances are unfor- 
tunately not always answered by the tone. His best 
are good, and will run into forty pounds, perhaps more ; 
but his worst are dear at five pounds. Nor can Vuil- 
laume pretend to rival in power his great French pre- 
decessors, Pique or Lupot, who copied, but without 
registering the defects of age, accident, and decay, 
which are so cleverly reproduced in Vuillaume's typical 


It ifi an exaggeration to say that Vuillaume baked 
bis nddles; but he treated the wood chemically in 
various ways, besides reproducing cracks and even 
worm-holes ; and this artificial age put upon his planks 
not only fails to carry the mellowness and timbre of 
wood grown naturally old, but seems actually to im- 
pair instead of improving its quality, and this is 
but too apparent as the instruments recede in time 
farther and farther from the hand of the too cunning 

There are, however, a few fine quartets of instru- 
ments, one of which, made for the Comte de Chimay, 
was lately exposed to public view in Messrs Hill's win- 
dows in Bond Street, These are varnished equally 
throughout, and no attempt at aging the wood or 
tampering with the surface is visible. The work 
throughout is charming and finished, as in the best 
Cremonese models, and the only wonder is, that as 
everything about them is so good, the tone is not 
better; still, everything is relative. But Vuillaume 
claims to be judged by a high standard, and so we 
judge him, 

Vuillaume'e ingenious brain was ever devising im- 
provements and novelties, but few of them have turned 
out successes. 

He made a violin tenor, but it never came into 
use, it being too cumbrous. He made a steel bow; 
but, although hollow, it was found to be too heavy. 
He made a sourdine tailpiece which acted on the 
bridge, but it has never superseded the usual simple 


dummy contrivance. He made a self-hairing bow, 
which is .still sold by Mr Withers; but most violinists 
prefer to pay a small sum and get their bows haired, 
just as most men prefer to get themselves shaved 
it is less trouble, and does not cost much. 

Apart from his undoubted finish as a workman, and 
skill as a copyist, Jean Baptiste Vuillaume's title to 
fame will rest largely on his connection with Tarisio. 
As we have seen, he not only dealt with him living, 
but bought all the violins found in the bedroom along 
with the peasant carpenter's lifeless body. 

His possession of the Messie, . which he kept in a 
glass case, and never allowed any one to touch, was a 
source of great anxiety to him during the Paris Com- 
mune in 1870. 

He writes to Madame Alard, his daughter, who 
married the celebrated violinist of that name : " In my 
last I spoke to you of Alard's violin and my Messie, 
and of certain valuables I have here. I do not know 
what to do with them, for if one survives, one will be 
able to recover the valuables when the hubbub is over ; 
and some sous can be buried, but violins cannot be 
buried." And again: "Where ought I to place all 
these in case of pillage?" 

He referred chiefly to his violins, and old medals 
received in the Paris Exhibition from 1827 to 1855, 
and the Great Exhibition medal in London, 1851. 

Later on we are relieved by reading : " I have found 
quite a safe hiding-place protected from fire, et puis tl 
la grace de Dieu I " 


All went well with the treasures, and in 1875, when he 
died, the Messie fell to the joint share of his only two 
children, Jeanne and Claire. Jeanne (Madame Alard) 
bought out Claire's interest for five hundred pounds, 
the violin at that time being valued at one thousand. 
In 1890 Messrs Hilt bonghl it foi Mr E. Crawford for 
the unprecedented figure of two thousand pounds, the 
largest sum ever given by a dealer for a single instru- 
ment. Mr Charles Eeade valued it at six hundred, 
but that was several years ago, when a first-class Strad 
could be obtained for about three hundred and twenty 
pounds. Prices have run up since then, and (like 
" Charley's Aunt " * as we write) are " still running " ! 

Down to the end of his life Vuillaume was a great 
dealer, and he hurried over to London when quite an 
old man to attend the sale of Mr Gillot's fiddles. He 
mistook the date, and arrived a day after the sale. He 
came into Mr Hill's shop in Wardour Street, and gave 
vent to his disappointment. Mr Hill, whom he always 
visited when in London, had bought several instru- 
ments, and had a second deal with Vuillaume then and 
there, much to the Frenchman's gratification. It is 
interesting to catch this glimpse of the two greatest 
dealers and artificers of the age face to face for 
one moment, and in such friendly and characteristic 
rcla lions. 

* A popular comedy (1898V 



IT is an amusing fact that hardly a Continental writer 
on musical instruments, M. Vidal excepted, has thought 
it worth while to give any reasoned account of the 
English viol and violin-makers who have occupied such 
a distinguished place in the history of the art. 

I heard the other day of an American school atlas 
which left out all the islands in the world as unim- 
portant details calculated to confuse the minds of 
young students. England, of course, being a small 
island, was one of the first to disappear, 

The names of Barak Norman, Banks, Forster, and 
Duke may be somewhat confusing, but we must risk 
the mention of them just for the sake of an approxi- 
mate completeness. 

The fact is, that in Queen Elizabeth's time the Eng- 
lish were really almost a musical people. Whether 
the viols came across from the Low Countries or Ger- 
many or from Italy has never seemed to me a matter 
of much importance. Undoubtedly the viol and its 
descendants is cloisteral, and that means Italian, since 
all the arts along with Christianity spread from the 

great Italian centres Home, Florence, Milan, Brescia : 


and in Elizabeth's time Italian influence is as marked 
in English music as it is in the Shakspearian drama, or 
in these gorgeous brocades, silks, and tapestries that 
still dazzle us behind glass at the South Kensington 
Museum, or in such Elizabethan gems of Eenaissance 
architecture as Knole and Hatfield, which seem to 
touch as with the glory of a foreign world the palatial 
seats " of our old nobility." 

Modern music rises in Elizabeth's reign with Monte 
Verde and the discovery of the octave and the perfect 

Along with it rise the Italian singing-schools of 
Naples; whilst the viols, improved to meet the new 
demands, culminate in the Brescian, Maggini and the 
Oremonese Amati patterns (the very word Madrigala, 
the hymn of the Mother of God, is Italian and clois- 
teral), and the viols which accompanied such part- 
songs were doubtless of Italian origin. 

But, for all that, the viols were genuinely naturalised 
and acclimatised in England, and for a short time it 
seemed as if England were even going to lead the art 
of viol manufacture. 

The father of Galileo the astronomer declared in 
1583 that the best lutes were at that time made in 
England, and we know that lute-making and viol- 
making so invariably went together that in France 
and Italy the violin-maker is to this day called a 
" iutier " ; and J. J. Kousseau remarks, a little loosely 
perhaps: "The viol passed from the Italians to the 
English, who first began to compose and play bar- 


monised pieces for it, and who imparted the knowledge 
to other kingdoms." 

Mace, an old writer and quite a musical expert 
(1676), mentions the viols of Eoss (1598) and Smith 
(1633) as " old instruments " in his day. But the move- 
ment did not go on, and I cannot for a moment doubt 
that what checked the rise of music and the manufac- 
ture of musical instruments in this country was that 
same Puritan craze which snubbed art, smashed the 
stained glass, and mutilated our cathedrals throughout 
the land. 

Viols had by this time crept out of the cloister and 
joined hands with the frivolous Rebek, used at fairs 
and pothouses. At all events, in Cromwell's time and 
the " Barebones-praise-God period," everything that 
savoured of festivity was tabooed, and the ,f ury against 
art seemed part and parcel of all sincere religion, 
according to the masses at least. 

To Cromwell's honour be it set down that he was 
personally no such extremist, and that he, moreover, 
saved for us Baffael's cartoons ; but still music in any 
of its secular forms was mightily discouraged by the 
Puritans, whilst in its higher religious form it was 
associated with Prelacy and Papacy, and we have to 
wait for that reaction in favour of the world, the flesh, 
and the devil, which marked the Eestoration, and which 
also made provision for the more innocent as well as 
the more perilous delights of music in the home, the 
concert room, the theatre, and the sanctuary. 

In Charles I/s band (1625) there were "eleven 


violins and four viols," so at last the violin was 
creeping up; but not until Charles IL's restoration 
did the full-fledged violin come in with a rush of 
" f our-and-twenty " fiddlers, over whom presided no 
less a person than the immortal Thomas Purcell, who, 
in a brief span of life, achieved his almost Mozartian 
fame, and died at the early age of twenty-seven, just 
ten years younger than the incomparable Wolfgang 

The King had no doubt got his notion of fiddle 
bands from Louis XIII/s " petits violons du roi " ; and 
from the French Court, our "merrie monarch" bor- 
rowed a good many other ideas of a less respectable 
and harmless character. 

The King was so seriously addicted to music that 
he could hardly hear a sermon and never eat his dinner 
without the solatium of his four-and-twenty fiddlers. 

"They played before him at his meals," writes 
Anthony Wood in the diary of his life, " as being more 
airy and brisk than the viols " ; and the grave Evelyn 
much resents the invasion of the upstart " petit violon " 
and its profane intrusion. He writes in 1662: "One 
of his Majesty's chaplains preached, after which, instead 
of anthem or solemn wind music accompanying the 
organ, was introduced a concert of twenty-four violins 
between every pause, in the French fantastical light 
way, better suiting a tavern or a playhouse than a 

Tis an ill wind that blows nobody and nothing any 
good, and we cannot doubt that his Majesty's royal 


mistresses* like the Duchess of Cleveland (Barbara 
Palmer), the Duchess of St Albans (Nell Gwynn, the 
actress), the mother of the Duke of Monmouth (Lucy 
Walters), the Duchess of Portsmouth (Louise de 
Querouaille, a French girl), greatly favoured all the 
more frivolous diversions with which secular music, 
and especially the new-fangled violin, were associated. 

These ladies were bound to be musical, as music 
undoubtedly delighted the "merrie monarch," and 
flattered his jaded tastes by its frequent novelty and 
emotional excitations. 

The revellers at Whitehall soon attracted to the 
capital the greatest violin players from foreign parts. 
The supremacy of the new violin pattern was achieved, 
and the rage of virtuosity began. 

Even John Evelyn succumbed to the witchery of 
Thomas Balzar, a Swede, who arrived in 1656. He 
seems to have been the Paganini of the period, and 
electrified the Court. Evelyn calls him "incompar- 
able"; he played off at sight the most amazing diffi- 
culties with ravishing sweetness and " improvements " ; 
he played a full concert on his single instrument, so 
that the rest flung down their violins, acknowledging 
the victory. As to worthy Mr Paul Wheeler and 
Mr Mell, who were the Spohrs and De Beriots of 
their day, they had to hide their diminished heads. 

We are not surprised to hear after this that his 
Majesty installed the great Balzar as director of his 
twenty-four violins, retained his services at court, and 
buried him in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. 


It will be convenient to focus our attention on 
English violin-making about this time, for doubtless 
the arrival of these foreign players, and the popularity 
of the king's band, gave a great impetus to our native 
manufacture. The supply of foreign violins, for which 
there was now a growing demand abroad i.e. t in 
England and France began to give out as the cen- 
tury waned. There were plenty of old viols, but no old 
violins to fall back upon; the violin was a new pro- 
duct; and, as the court set the fashion, we should 
naturally expect the English viol-makers would be 
wide awake to the importance of supplying the new 
want, and such was the case. 

The Brescian and Cremonese fiddles were hardly 
known in England, and what the Italians made were 
chiefly for home consumption. 

As the English were great viol-makers in Elizabeth's 
time, we may ask : Why did they allow the Italians to 
take the lead in violins? Why is the English school 
of violins at least fifty, and the best English violins 
a hundred years later than the early Cremona chefs- 
d'ceuvre? Why is Nicolo Amati's date 1596-1684, 
whilst W. Forster is 1713-1801, Duke 1769, and Banks 
1795 ? The answer is not far to seek : the fact that 
violin manufacture was checked by the Puritan move- 
ment in England, whilst its progress in Italy was 
steady and continuous, enabled the Italians to steal 
a march upon us which turned us into pupils, and 
pupils afar off too, when we resumed the industry, 
I do not eay that the superior climatic conditions and 


generally the art atmosphere of the small Italian 
courts must not also be taken into account ; but when 
attention was called to improved tonal quality, and 
a timbre, power, and sensibility undreamed of by the 
old viol-makers became de rigueur, in response to the 
demands of virtuosity and the advance of the musical 
art, Italy was bound to win; such Tyrolean woods, 
such varnish, such sun, such sentiment, as was required 
for the perfect evolution of the violin, could hardly be 
found outside Italy. Both Spain and Germany con- 
fessed to the fact, nor could England put it aside. 
Accordingly, the highest praise that was ever given 
to an English maker was given to Benjamin Banks 
(1727-95), who was called "The English Amati"; but 
to this day no one has ever been called " The English 
Stradivari' 1 ! 

Passing by Aireton (died in 1807), who copied Amati, 
but used yellow varnish; Henry Jay (1744-77); the 
famous kit-makers (the kit is a tiny instrument with 
normal neck and finger-board, used chiefly by dancing- 
masters), the Kennedys, father and son (1730-1870), 
most prolific but mediocre fabricators, chiefly of violins 
and tenors ; Panormo and Parker, the two first excellent 
eighteenth-century makers; we make special mention 
of John Eayman, one of, if not the earliest, English 
violin -maker. "An extraordinary Rayman" was 
amongst the violins owned by Britton, the musical 
coal-heaver. Urquhart was also a maker of exceptional 

Pamphilon (1685) was a fair and excellent workman, 


high model, moderate tone, with quite splendid varnish. 
"Peter Walmsley, at Ye Golden Harp in Piccadilly," 
good copyist of Stainer and an excellent maker, we 
are bound to notice on account of his early date and 
more solid reputation. 

"Barak Norman" worked and sold fiddles at St 
Paul's Churchyard (1683-1740). His label runs thus, 
with a *%* and crown above it, similar to the labels of 
Del Gesu, some of which he may have seen: "Barak 
Norman and Nathaniel Cross, at the Bass Viol in S. 
Paul's Churchyard, London, fecit 1702." 

Mr Walter Brooksbank of Windermere had one of 
the Cross viol da gamba, in which, after the style 
of the early bell founders, the instrument is supposed 
thus to speak for itself. "Nathaniel Cross wrought 
my back and belly" (the scroll and sides being by 
Barak Norman). 

Meares, about whom little to speak of is known, 
except that he was probably a pupil of Eayman's, is 
reputed to have taught Barak Norman. 

Meares is known to have adopted the Brescian 
model. He was probably the earliest English maker 
of violoncellos. He retains some of the decorative use 
of purfling, which rapidly went out as the new violins 
came in. He runs his purfle into his monogram with 
attendant flourishes. Meares made at first chiefly 
viols, after that tenors of excellent quality. 

His violins are much esteemed. He was a close 
copyist of Maggini. 

Three of his viols were exhibited in the South 


Kensington Loan Collection of 1872, but one of them, 
dated 1690, had been cut down. 

It remained for Stradiuarius, in the dawning year of 
the eighteenth century, to discover and fix the model 
of the bass viol that needed no cutting down. 

The musical world owes a debt of eternal gratitude 
to the Forster family ; there were four of them. 

" Great-grandfather John (1683), maker of spinning- 
wheels and violins. 

" Grandfather William, the Forster, commonly called 
'Old Forster/ 

"Father William, No. 2, who also made spinning- 

" William, No. 3 (1764-1824)." 

His sons, the two brothers William (1733-1824), and 
Simon Andrew (1731-1869). 

The second Forster (1739-1807), William, called 
" Old Forster," bears off the palm. 

Born in the north, a native of Brampton, he made 
his market, like his father, out of the spinning-wheel 
industry of Cumberland, but he was a many-sided 
man, a great repairer of viols, and afterwards a maker 
of violins, the greatest maker in the north the greatest 
maker in all England 

He commended his violins to the public by playing 
on them himself. He was not beneath playing at 
country dances and on village greens. 

We may be sure he never lost an opportunity of 
parting, for a consideration, with the violin he played 
upon since naturally, people would often be seized 


with a desire to possess themselves of an instrument 
which they had heard discourse such excellent music 
and to the purpose. 

Indeed, I have sometimes known professors in these 
days who would so cunningly play to their pupils that 
they have been able to palm off for considerable sums 
quite inferior instruments, 

How much more easy must it have been for the man 
who made them, and made none but the best, and 
played them on occasions when his purchasers' spirits 
were high and their dispositions yielding, to dispose of 
his exceptional wares. 

About 1759 Forster seems to have concluded that 
Cumberland was played out, and, sighing for new worlds 
to conquer, he came south. He was quite a young man, 
but in the great whirlpool of London, as it was even 
then, he seems to have sunk so low as cattle-driving, 
but that is in itself a tribute to his versatility and 
pluck. Presently he sets up in the Commercial Boad, 
East, but finding there neither demands for spinning- 
wheels nor fiddles, takes to gunstock-making, till he at 
last "strikes ile" with one Beck, of Tower Hill, and 
there makes such fiddles that Beck grows fat while 
Forster remains lean. 

Unable to get his wages raised, he leaves Beck in 
1762, and sets up at Duke's Court, a site now occupied 
by the National Gallery. 

For about ten years Forster adopted the high Stainer 
pattern, then so popular in England, and attracted the 
patronage of amateurs like Colonel West, Afterwards 


he set up in St Martin's Lane, and then went to 
348 Strand. He had by this time attracted the 
attention of royalty, and the Duke of Cumberland, 
George Ill's son, is said even to have once dined with 
him off black pudding. 

Old Forster's versatility and enterprise is still further 
shown by his opening communications with the great 
Joseph Haydn, and it is chiefly to him that England 
owes the introduction and publication of Haydn's im- 
mortal Symphonies. 

The shrewd old man doubtless saw the profit which 
lay hid in a scheme which would popularise the greatest 
writer for stringed instruments who ever lived, and he 
had not miscalculated. 

The same cleverness which prompted him to give the 
English a dose of the Stainer model when Stainer was 
the rage, prompted him to revert to the later Amati 
grand pattern as he reached his ripe maturity. He 
also changed his varnish before the close of his life, 
and is said to have found the secret of solving amber 
with the assistance of the chemist Delaporte, who in- 
vented some stuff known as the Verins Martin, 

Amongst his patrons were George III., who, as 
Prince of Wales, was fond of playing the violoncello, 
probably one of "Old Forster's/ 1 and who, when he 
asked Haydn, who had been listening to him, how he 
thought he played, received the altogether diplomatic 
reply, "Vy, your 'ighness do play like a Brince." 

Peter Pindar (Dr Walcot) and Bartolozzi the en- 
graver were also amongst Forster's patrons. He made 


but four double-basses, and his tenors and 'cellos are 
thought better of than his violins. They are steadily 
rising in value. He died in the same year as Haydn 
(1808). His son William already suffered much from 
the foreign competition, which was just beginning to 
tell, the duty which protected the English manufac- 
tures having been removed. 

William made some very good instruments, but they 
do not equal his father's; and he made a great deal 
of rubbish for the trade besides. 

There was no doubt a certain erratic vein in the 
Forster family, which in Old Forster took the shape of 
amazing versatility and profitable enterprise, but which 
in his son and grandson degenerated into speculative 
eccentricity. The son went in for buying grocery, 
and invested in other bad businesses. The grandson 
turned out very unmanageable, but clever and many- 
sided; he worked for a time with Thomas Kennedy, 
but got away from him and went in for play-acting, 
sometimes taking a turn in the orchestra at the violon- 
cello desk. He made about fifteen instruments alto- 
gether, two or three of which only approached the 
Forster high level. He died in 1824, suddenly, whilst 
still quite a young man. 

His brother Simon made a large number of violins 
tenors and 'cellos; they are those signed S. A. 
Forster, but they do not rank very high. He was 
the first to write a history of the violin, and has 
deserved well of all succeeding writers, who quote 
him with a touching simplicity of faith, as though, 



forsooth, because the first, he must needs be the best 

At the name of Benjamin Banks all tenor and 
'cello players lift their hats; for although the later 
importation into England of Cremonas has somewhat 
obscured our countryman's fame, his splendid work 
even surpassed, as some think, by his sons James and 
Henry is bound to hold the market again; and a 
name extolled by the great virtuoso Lindley, whose 
favourite instrument was a Banks, is not likely to be 
neglected by Lindley's successors, even though they 
may be the happy possessors of Stradivari basses. 

Benjamin Banks (1727-1795) was a contemporary 
of Old Forster (1713-1801), but there is no reason 
to suppose that the two artificers ever met or mate- 
rially interfered with each other ; for Banks worked at 
Salisbury, whilst Forster worked in London, and no 
express trains bore fiddles or fiddle-buyers swiftly to 
and fro in those days. 

Benjamin Banks copied Nicolo Amati very closely ; 
but Mr Sandys speaks of a rare long-shaped violon- 
cello of his quite of the Stainer pattern, with the 
round-topped Stainer sound-holes. This was none 
other than the great Lindley's famous instrument 
which so nearly escaped destruction in a coach acci- 
dent. The passengers had a bad shaking and a bad 
spill, and Lindley and his violoncello among them; 
but the rare enthusiast, in the midst of the con- 
fusion, had but one thought. He flew to his 'cello- 
case, and was found seated in a ditch, quietly play- 


ing away to assure himself that his beloved was 

Mr Lucas had an excellent Benjamin Banks violin, 
but Banks tenors and violoncellos are more esteemed. 
Banks made no double-basses; his varnish is yellow- 
brown, of excellent quality, but badly laid on, that on 
his bellies being often clotted, so that, in technical 
parlance, it is said to kill the grain. 

The Earl of Pembroke, who presumably knew no 
better, ordered a violoncello of Banks to be made en- 
tirely out of an old cedar-tree, which had been blown 
down in his lordship's park (Wilton). It was, as might 
have been foreseen, a great failure in tone. Of course 
Banks made it "right enough," and pocketed the 
money, but it is doubtful whether the Earl ever got 
his money's worth. 

I remember a very carefully made violin, all of silver, 
another expensive freak of ignorance and eccentricity ; 
doubtless it sounded like a tin kettle, and was musically 
of no use whatever. Some of us may have heard an 
ingenious itinerant violinist playing on a tin biscuit- 
box with similar results. 

Benjamin's scrolls are not very elegant, but that 
does not affect his tone. Benjamin had a very good 
idea of his own importance, and probably, too, a sus- 
picion of the extent to which his name would be taken 
in vain after his death. He tried to make this more 
difficult by not only varying his labels in about four 
different ways, but also stamping his instruments in 
several places with his own peculiar seal, B,B. 


Benjamin's sons fell far below their father, but the 
old man left quite a number of white unvarnished 
instruments in a cellar when the business was sold, all 
of which were duly completed and sent forth with his 
name, to which, however, they have but a partial right ; 
for, as his sons worked with him, it is by no means 
certain that every fiddle in Bank's shop at the time of 
his death was made by Benjamin p&re. 

Duke (1754-69) was remarkable as having largely 
contributed to create in England the Stainer furore 
which so confused the judgment of amateurs in this 
country, and retarded for at least fifty years the 
triumph of the Stradivari grand pattern. In reality the 
best Dukes are on the Amati pattern, but they are few 
in number, and though there are innumerable fraudu- 
lent Dukes about, a real Duke is seldom seen. The 
fraudulent Dukes exaggerate the high bellies and deep 
grooving of the earlier Amati, and thus pass for Stainer 
pattern. Duke's varnish is also of a yellow or yellow- 
brown hue. It is not likely that Duke's reputation 
will increase, though the rarity of genuine Dukes and 
the plentiful number of counterfeits may still run up 
a few real specimens to fancy prices. 

I cannot close this brief" survey of the old English 
makers without a mention of Bernard Fendt (1756- 
1832. He was originally a Swiss cabinet-maker, but 
coming to London, went into business with Thomas 
Dodd, for whom, and with whom, he began to make 
violins. Jfendt soon got hold of another cabinet- 
maker, a compatriot, and Dodd took him also into the 


business. These two clever artificers soon raised Dodd's 
business to great prosperity, and Dodd thus had the 
honour of putting his own name in their violins. All 
he had done, however, was to varnish them, but he did 
chat superlatively well, so that Dodd's varnish became 
as famous as Dodd's bows. 

Fendt afterwards left Dodd and worked for John 
Betts, who was famous for his imitations of Amati, 
which he said paid better than making fiddles with his 
own name in them. Many of his best imitations were 
made by Fendt, who has thus created the reputation of 
two makers besides himself. His son, who died only 
in 1851, would have equalled his father had he not 
been seduced by the vicious practice of prematurely 
aging his violins, thus pandering to the taste for old 
fiddles at the expense of the fiddles themselves for it 
is notorious that such frauds do not improve by age. 


Dark yes, to my eyes very dark ; but the light in 
William Ebsworth Hill's old shop in Wardour Street 
was good enough for him ; a greater glare might have 
flouted those hundreds of old brown fiddles, and dusty 
debris of fiddles, which that very moderately sized estab- 
lishment was hung, lined, strewn, and littered o'er with. 

So the dim light, relieved on foggy days with a 
casual gas-jet, or even a candle-end, seemed better than 
the garish sunlight for that dusky brood even as the 
moonbeam, according to Sir Walter Scott, touched the 


grey ruins of Melrose more tenderly than the light 
of day. 

There were no electric lamps in those days (in 1870), 
consequently no patent asbestos appliances for con- 
verting the impure London gas into a specious and 
blazing rival. 

Mr Hill tried to do too much, In his back shop 
he conducted repairs, and frequently brought his "re- 
pairs " into the front shop. I have seen him there, 
behind the counter, busy with gouge, knife, or scraper. 
When customers or applicants for advice arrived some 
with cheap German fiddles which they fondly believed 
to be rare specimens of Cremona, others with their own 
good, bad, and indifferent instruments to be done up 
they were received one and all with the same mild 
and tolerant inattention, born not of incivility, but of 
abstraction. Such as knew Mr Hill in those days, 
knew the nearest approach we shall perhaps ever see 
to the great Cremona makers. I do not say that 
any of Mr Hill's work (barring his exquisite repairs 
and carving) is likely to rank with theirs ; he was an 
admirable maker, but he very soon left off making. 
When the duty on foreign violins was removed there 
poured into England a continuous stream of fiddles, 
which entirely swamped the demand for new ones of 
English make. Mr Hill, following the market, turned 
his attention to repairing and dealing; but the art 
and craft atmosphere, the knowledge, the familiarity 
with violin constitution, the infallible intuition and 
single-minded love of the violin lor its own sake, 


M a thing of beauty, wonder, mystery, more than 
enough to monopolise a lifetime of devotion this is 
what made Mr Ebsworth Hill the spiritual heir of 
Ihe grand old fiddle-makers. "Why," he said to me 
ance, "talk about not knowing the touch of this or 
that maker ? I know the sort of tools Stradivari or 
Joseph used. I can see the mark of a special favourite 
knife here or gouge there. I know which way he used 
to cut and slice, and how he held his tool for such and 
euch a kind of finish. I can see 'em at work, and the 
handling of one is no more like another's than the 
touch of one painter is like another's." 

When you took a fiddle in to show Mr Hill, you 
had to wait Mr Hill's good time ; he seldom answered 
immediately he was spoken to, but would look up 
dreamily through his spectacles without laying down 
his file or knife, and let off some such dogmatic and 
eracular sentence as: "You want to know how I can 
lell a fiddle. Well, I don't know how I can tell ; and 
here are days when I don't trust my judgment days 
[ can't see, for instance. I leave off looking at fiddles 
for a day or two; and when I come back I take up 
this fiddle and that, and just at first I can't see any- 
Idling those fiddles tell me nothing; it's a peculiar 
/state of mind just as a player or a surgeon's hand 
gets out, so a judge's eye gets out. I know exactly 
when I see and when I can't see, and when I can't see 
I hold my tongue; and I know exactly how much I 
can see, but I don't tell everybody." The casual visitor 
eould make very little of old Hill at first Therg 


was a curious sort of inner otherwhereness to coin a 
word about him. Some people found him very trying 
indeed. You never knew whether he heard what you 
said ; but when at last he favoured you with a remark, 
you discovered that he had not only heard your words, 
but that he had accurately gauged you. 

His action was often unexpected and sometimes 
alarming. I one day entered his shop with a friend 
who had a fiddle which he much prized, and indeed 
it was a really valuable instrument, but needed over- 

We both stood in front of the counter, and old Hill 
was bending over a scroll that he was fitting on to a 
new neck. I addressed him on behalf of my friend, but 
he took no notice whatever ; he remained absorbed in 
his delicate adjustments; and no Prince of the blood 
would have fared any better than we did until he had 
finished what he was about. Again I mentioned my 

friend's name : " Mr has brought you his fiddle to 

look at by my advice. Perhaps you can tell him what 
ought to be done." Hill looked up, nodded, eyed my 
friend through his spectacles with cold interest, and 
then resumed his work. I had to rouse him a second 
time before he seemed to grasp the fact that my 
anxious friend had taken his precious Cremona from 
its case and was standing with it in his hand ready for 
the magician's inspection. 

At last Hill laid down his tool, and taking the 
instrument in his hands, gave it one quick glance and 
a couple of taps; he then deliberately looked in its 


astonished owner's face, tore off the finger-board, 
loosened the neck, and drove a knife under the belly. 
The fiddle was soon in pieces, and he threw the loose 
fragments aside in a heap, took up his repairs again, 
and said he would attend to the matter by-and-by, 
and the gentleman need not stop ; and we got no more 
out of old Hill that day, who immediately became re- 
absorbed in his work. 

I shall never forget the rueful and amazed look with 
which my poor friend beheld the tearing to pieces of 
his Cremona, but I touched him on the arm, and seeing 
that Hill was in no mood for talk, got him out of the 
shop, assuring him that it was all right, and that the 
great repairer had shown more interest than usual in 
his valuable instrument, or he would never have torn 
it to pieces then and there; and with such words I 
strove to comfort my perplexed and anxious friend. 

I am bound to add that although Hill kept him 
waiting several months, when the fiddle came back its 
owner was more than satisfied, and declared that he 
then heard his Cremona for the first time. 

Mr William Ebsworth Hill came of a family of 
violin-makers and violin-players. Joseph Hill, who 
was born 1715, was proud to trace his descent from 
the "Mr Hill" mentioned in Pepys* Diary as being 
employed to alter his lute and viall. 

Joseph was a prolific and excellent violin-maker, and 
carried on business in the early part of the eighteenth 
century at the sign of the Harp and Flute in the 


He had five sons ; all made violins and three played 
professionally, whilst the other two, like the present 
four brothers Hill in Bond Street, followed their 
father's vocation alone. The third son, Lockey Hill, 
was the father of Henry Lockey Hill, who became in 
his turn the father of William Ebsworth Hill, known 
in the middle of this century as Mr Hill of Wardour 
Street. Hill's father, Henry Lockey, an excellent 
violin-maker, died in 1835. The Hills seem prolific 
in sons, and Lockey left four sons. Henry distin- 
guished himself as an admirable quartet player, and 
well do I remember the splendid tone of his Barak 
Norman tenor at Willis' Eooms as far back I think as 
1848, when, with Sainton, Piatti, and Cooper one of 
the best, as it was almost the earliest string quartet cast 
in London he assisted in delighting and educating a 
select public in the mysteries of chamber music, which 
has been since so freely expounded by Ella's Musica* 
Union and the Monday Popular Concerts. 

Berlioz always spoke of Henry Hill in terms of the 
highest praise ; he even went so far as to say that he 
considered him one of the first performers in Europe. 

It is seldom that a tenor player ever comes in for 
direct commendation. He acts as a sort of go-between 
to violoncello and violin; but his individual efforts, 
although so important to the combined effect, are 
usually lost sight of between the grand work of the 
bass and the brilliant lead and musical embroideries of 
the first and second violins. 

There are fao few concertos or strong parts written 


for the poor tenor, the Cinderella of the establishment, 
which is regrettable when one thinks of the glorious 
violas of Maggini and the Amati. Mr Hill's Barak 
Norman is now the property of Mr Doyle. 

William Ebsworth Hill, our great repairer, connois- 
seur, and dealer all in one, was born in 1817. He was 
educated at the Borough Road School, under the well- 
known Dr Lancaster, but it is certain that he went early 
to the bench, for at the age of fourteen we find him 
employed in cutting bridges in his father's workshop. 

For this purpose he used only a bradawl and a knife, 
and towards the end of his life he returned to bridge- 
cutting, and has left many beautiful specimens. His 
sons have a collection of two hundred, and no two of 
the same pattern ; they have also reverently preserved 
under glass his simple tools. He worked with extra- 
ordinary rapidity, equalled by his fastidious finish. 
He preferred the commonest tools, so only they were 
of the finest metal. He used to scorn the mechanical 
labour-saving appliances which now enable workmen 
to turn out hundreds instead of dozens of fiddles, and 
he heartily despised artificers who needed an elabo- 
rate plant before they could produce anything decent. 
A good maker, he was wont to say, could make a 
fiddle "with a knife and fork." Mr Hill's skill in 
bridge-making on one occasion misled so eminent a 
judge as Monsieur Fe"tis, of the Brussels Conservatoire. 
In 1851, the Prince Consort having expressed a wish 
to hear a concert of old instruments, a viol d'amore 
which was to be played by Ebsworth'a bjotber, Henry 


Hill, required a new bridge, which Ebsworth very 
quickly made. I remember hearing Hill perform on 
this viol d'amore with seven strings, at one of Monsieur 
Julien's Popular Concerts at the old Surrey Gardens. 
The elaborate arpeggios were most fascinating, and 
unlike anything I ever listened to before or have ever 
heard since. In due time the viol d'amore, which had 
been lent by the Brussels Conservatoire, was returned, 
and Monsieur F6 tis, who was the Principal, and engaged 
at that time in writing his valuable monograph on 
Stradivari, was very much bent upon hunting up old 
bridges. He happened to pitch upon the viol d'amore 
bridge, which he declared to be a highly interesting 
specimen of the artistic work of the great Cremona 
period. Mr Alfred Hill, one of Ebsworth Hill's sons, 
happened to be at Brussels, and his attention was called 
to Monsieur Ftis' eulogium on the antique viol d'amore 
bridge. "That," says Mr Alfred to Monsieur Victor 
Mahillon the curator, "is not an old bridge; it was 
cut by my father." An incredulous smile overspread 
the worthy curator's face, which was quickly changed 
into a look of apologetic admiration and surprise when 
Mr Hill, junior, turning up the bridge, pointed to 
" W. E. Hill" stamped upon it. 

Ebsworth Hill's father died in 1835, and not long 
afterwards Ebsworth, wishing to perfect himself in the 
technique of his art, went to study under the accom- 
plished maker Charles Harris, of Oxford. 

About 1838 he set up for himself in St George's 
Road, Southwark. 


Mr Woolhouse, the well-known collector, was one of 
his earliest patrons ; but his fame soon spread, and he 
found he had more work than he could well manage. 
He was also much resorted to as one of the few men 
whose judgment on a violin admitted of no appeal, 
and who could be trusted to give an honest opinion. 

From Southwark, Hill went to Wardour Street, which 
for many years was as much the violin quarter in 
London as the Kue Croix des Petits Champs is in 
Paris. It was there, when I was little more than a 
boy, that I first made Mr Hill's acquaintance. I used 
to take him my fiddles, and I was always drawn to the 
young boys, his sons, who frequented their father's 
shop, and had the profoundest sense of his importance 
and ability. It is not too much to say that Arthur, 
Alfred, William, and Walter Hill have enjoyed unique 
opportunities from their earliest childhood, and have 
not failed to qualify themselves assiduously for the high 
position that the firm of Hill & Sons now holds in the 
violin world. 

The boys inherited violin tendencies. They were 
steeped from childhood in violin tradition. They had 
special chances for seeing, handling, and diagnosing 
most of the great violins now extant. No time or 
money was spared by their father on the boys' educa- 
tion, and certainly no boys ever made a better use of 
their privileges. 

Alfred and Walter went to Mirecourt, to study all 
that could be taught in the most scientific and cele- 
brated workshop in the world. 


Arthur stayed at home and kept his eye in, being 
always in close attendance on his father, and never 
missing an opportunity of acquiring a new fact, or a 
fiddle, old or new, which was likely to bring grist to 
the mill or credit to the firm. 

From what has been said it may have been inferred, 
and not erroneously, that Ebsworth Hill was not, 
financially speaking, a business man though he did 
all his own business. For years everything that came 
into the shop passed through his hands ; he made every 
repair, doctored every fiddle, adjusted every screw, 
regulated or replaced every sound-bar and sound-post, 
and even strung the fiddles for his clients with his own 
hand in short, he did or closely superintended every- 
thing; division of labour, to the extent to which it 
is now carried, being a thing unknown in those early 

That such a system could not bring in large profits 
was obvious. Hill had many bad debts; his memory 
for fiddles was infallible, but his memory for accounts 
shocking, and he was cheated right and left. 

His fame was so widespread that orders poured in 
which could not be executed ; and when the old man's 
apparently inexhaustible powers of work began to give 
out, the sons, who had watched proceedings for years 
and slowly qualified themselves for every department, 
came in and broke up the one-man system not before 
financially confusion was becoming worse confounded. 
They trained their workmen, distributed the work, 
kept proper accounts for the first time, and in a few 


years built up what is, perhaps, when considered in all 
its branches, the largest individual violin-dealing in- 
dustry in the world. 

Mr Hill was a man of striking appearance: thin, 
spare, with light hair, and moustache early gone grey ; 
blue-grey eyes, very keen; a thoughtful face, often 
lighted up with a whimsical smile for the man was 
full of humour, though mostly of a genial sort. 

He was very much more of an all-round man than 
people who merely conversed with him on violins would 
suppose. Highly educated, in the usual sense of the 
word, he was certainly not; but he had a great ac* 
quaintance with human nature, and an extraordinary 
insight into character. 

His sly remarks on men and their manners, including 
their morals, were a perpetual feast to all who were 
admitted to his intimacy. In his own special line he 
was without a rival. He did not always say what he 
knew, but he never said what he did not know. 

He was frequently appealed to in doubtful cases, 
but was greatly opposed to litigation, and it was 
difficult to extract from him any opinion likely to 
lead to it. 

Once in the witness-box he was what the lawyers 
call a dangerous customer. His manner was per- 
fectly quiet, assured, and straightforward. He was 
absolutely decided, and would never budge from his 
opinion, and under pressure of cross-examination often 
raised a laugh at the expense of counsel. 

His sons have treasured many of his wise and witty 


sayings. On one occasion he refused to sell to a cus- 
tomer who already owed more than he could pay. 
Hill remarked dryly when the gentleman had left the 
shop, " That man's complaint is wind in the pockets." 
Of an amateur who was proud of showing off his style 
on his fiddles, Hill, looking up from his work, would 
say with a comical twinkle, "Hark, now, he's doing 
the lovely." 

The manner was often worth more than the matter. 

His memory was as extraordinary as Tarisio's. On 
one occasion a claim was brought against a railway 
company for sixty pounds' damage to the belly of a 
violoncello. The company demanded a valuation, and 
damages to be assessed by Hill. The claimant at last 
angrily submitted. Hill reported on the instrument, 
which he repaired for about thirty shillings. Five 
pounds he thought would be very liberal damages. 
The owner was furious, and would not even accept 
fifteen guineas. Mr Hill was at last called up, and 
made the following unpleasant statement: "This in- 
strument does not belong to this man at all. It is one 
of the instruments belonging to her Majesty, and used 
by the members of the private band." The soi-disant 
owner was perfectly dumbfounded, but was obliged to 
confess that he had actually borrowed the instrument 
when employed as deputy in the Queen's Band several 
years before, and had never restored it. Mr Hill had 
only seen it once before. 

A violin, said to be by F. Panormo, was sold as 
such by a dealer in Pentonville Road, It came into 


Hill's hands many years afterwards, who was asked 
to take it in part payment for another violin. He 
said : " This fiddle was not made by Fanormo ; it was 
made by my father about the year 1812 for my brother 
Henry, and owing to the difficulty of getting good 
foreign wood, my father made the back and ribs from 
English maple. It could not possibly have a good 
tone, but I should like to have it, and will allow 10 
for it." Mr Hill immediately proceeded to remove the 
belly. On the inside was written in pencil, " Made for 
my son Henry in the year 1812." 

Mr Hill led an extremely abstemious life. His 
only relaxations were reading and long walks on 
Sundays. Towards the close of his life he found 
himself surrounded by his sons, superintending a large 
staff of workmen, and his workshops at Hanwell, 
adjoining his country home, are well known. For 
some years before he died the direction of affairs had 
practically passed into the hands of his sons, whom 
be .bad so admirably trained to succeed him, and to 
them is entirely due the present great commercial 
prosperity of the firm. 

William Ebsworth Hill sank gradually from senile 
exhaustion of brain power, and died in 1895, aged 




WHEN a true chesiist enters a laboratory fitted tip 
with the usual mysterious tubes, crucibles, "baths/* 
and general apparatus for distillation, and his nose 
scents the aroma of gums, spirits, essential oils, and 
what not, he experiences an atmospheric sensation 
which enthuses him for his work. What the odour 
of stables is to the lover of horses, or the smell of 
paint to the artist, that is the laboratory aroma to 
the chemist. 

I have no insight into crucibles, and I don't like 
smells. The proportion of subtle weights and measures, 
avoirdupois or troy, are beyond me; the disputations 
of science and the general incapacity of scientists to 
agree about mixed problems puzzles and sometimes 
"impatients" me, as the French say. 

In wading through various treatises on Cremona 
varnish I regret to say I have experienced vague 
emotions of annoyance and perplexity which I would 
fain conceal from the reader. I should like to pose 
as the clear exponent of the famous Cremona secret, 
or hold some one fixed opinion, buttressed by argu- 
ments weighty enough to confound all opponents, and 


based upon the " triumphs of modern research." The 
triumph of modern research seems to me to consist in 
the discovery that we have as yet failed to discover 
the Cremona varnish, as, although we may speculate 
about it and at moments seem to come very near 
the mark, as yet we cannot make the stuff, or, at all 
events, apply it in Cremona fashion to our new fiddles. 

It may be consoling, but not very satisfactory, to 
reflect that no one has mixed it or applied it in 
Cremona fashion since about 1750 ; but that fact only 
serves to whet the curious appetite, and each writer 
braces himself for renewed disquisitions, visits work- 
shops, and scrapes bits off Cremonas when he can, 
perhaps dabbles himself with gums and alcohol, and 
pumps fiddle-makers with a view to wringing the 
secret out of the Cremona sphynx. 

So entirely mixed is the whole subject that the 
violin world can't even decide in what the proper 
functions of the varnish consist. One maintains that 
it is merely for the preservation of the wood, another 
that it greatly affects the tone, and the third that 
it is chiefly decorative. 

To me it seems almost a truism to say that the 
varnish is good for all three purposes: that it pre- 
serves the wood is certain, though exactly how is 
open to discussion ; that it affects the tone is equally 
certain, though exactly how is still a moot point; 
that ifc is decorative is obvious, though taste in the 
colouring has varied with each school of makers as 
much as some makers have varied with themselves. 


For my part, after reading a dozen disquisitions on 
the Cremona varnish, and inspecting hundreds of fiddles 
for a quarter of a century, I applaud the courage and 
reticence of Mr George Hart, who, in his valuable 
book on old violins, gives just five pages on Italian 
varnish, with an intelligent description of its various 
appearances, a brief quotation from the inimitable 
writer Charles Keade, and not a single recipe. 

As I am not writing for violin-makers, but only 
for collectors, I shall certainly not rush in where 
authorities like Mr Hart fear to tread, and shall 
content myself with a few probable suppositions and 
a few more generally descriptive remarks. 

Some authorities maintain that the wood should 
be first saturated with oil before the colouring varnish 
is applied, a practice which has a tendency to clog 
the pores, so that until some age has been put on and 
the wood has become desiccated and shaken free from 
the grosser oily particles, the vibrations are stifled and 
the tone consequently dull. 

Others declare that the sizing of oil should not 
penetrate the wood far, but leave it free to desiccate 
by itself, and merely act as a sort of veneer for the 
colour varnish which has got to be spread over the 
transparent oil covering. The wood, in fact, has to be 
sized first and varnished afterwards. Taking this view, 
the process would be something of this kind: The 
white belly is cut from fine pine which has been six 
or seven years drying in the sun, but never exposed 
to rain and waits patiently for its anointing, A stick 


of that resinous gum beloved of artists, gamboge 
yellow, from Gamboga, Siam, or China, is then pow- 
dered and dissolved in pure alcohol; sloes are some- 
times added, or when a yellow ground is not desired, 
sandarak and the long resinous tears of benzoin are 
treated with pure alcohol. When the back, belly, 
and ribs are thoroughly dry, the colouring, like a 
flavouring to taste, is added. 

The chief colouring ingredients appear to be of 
two kinds of sandal-wood, one yielding red orange 
tints, from Calcutta, and the other a deeper red, from 
the Coromandel Coast. An alcoholic solution of these 
is mixed with essential oil of turpentine, freely oxydised 
(or exposed to the air) and laid on the perfectly dry 
surface in successive layers, each layer being allowed 
to dry separately. 

The colour coating thus lies like an agate film over 
the oil sizing, and through the top varnish as through 
coloured glass may be seen dyed orange, or red, or 
brown all the delicate curls and fibres of the wood, 
shown up as by a kind of Kontgen rays by the oil size. 

We are told that the resins used may be divided into 
hard and soft, and that of these the soft, such as mastic 
and dammar, are the best, because the most elastic and 
friendly to the waves of vibration. The mastic and 
dammar resins seem to unite, in the greatest perfection, 
the three essential properties most suitable for varnish 
elasticity, solidity, and transparency. 

The Cremonese are said to have used nothing but 
the soft resins. The much-talked-of, old-fashioned 


dragon's blood, a resinous gum from the Draconian 
Draco, does not seem now to be commonly forthcoming. 
The Calami Draco of Borneo has taken its place. The 
old dragon's blood has been much talked about, and 
credited with giving a certain splendid sanguineous 
flush to some of the rare Cremonese bellies upon which 
the judicious amateur dotes. 

And now, what is amber varnish ? The usual answer 
is, there is no such thing. Certainly it was never used 
by Stradivari, for it is said the secret of fusing that 
hard gum was only discovered by Martin the chemist 
in 1737, the year of Stradivari's death. On the other 
hand, I hear that amber has been found in the varnish 
of Giuseppe del Gesii by what analysis I do not know. 
The usual way of rubbing a violin and smelling the 
surface has always seemed to me to furnish a most un- 
reliable test. One saith, " I smell benzoin " ; or another, 
" I smell mastic " ; and a third, " I smell amber " ; and a 
fourth, " I smell nought " ; and this battle of olfactory 
organs is like to go on, as saith the poet 

' 'As long as man has passions, 
As long as life has woes " ; 

or, as we may say 

" As long as man has nose." 

So here I desire to take my leave of this thorny sub- 
ject, and with a sense of relief I abandon crucibles to 
the expert, and oils and resins to the disputatious, 
merely reminding our collectors for practical purpose 
that the Brescian varnish is soft and brown, but with- 


out the magical Cremonese transparency ; the Cremona 
is amber-coloured (early) or (later) light red orange, 
and sometimes velvety brown, and very soft and glossy 
as it rubs away. 

The Venetian varnish of many shades is very clear; 
the Stainer, yellow- brown, with a subtle roseate flush 
at times; the normal German, brown and muddy; 
the French, Cremonese in colour, but glassy and chip- 
ping rather than soft and glossy. Some of the English 
varnish is remarkable, that of Dodd even approximating 
closely to the Cremona school, etc. 

On the whole, the best solution of the Cremona 
mystery seems to me that it was probably no mystery 
at all, which also best accounts for the disappearance 
of the varnish towards the middle of the eighteenth 
century. It is absurd to suppose that the varnish used 
by at least one hundred makers for more than one hun- 
dred years (for Italian violins from 1550 to 1660 up to 
1740 all have it) could have been a secret; it was pro- 
bably the ordinary varnish of commerce, superseded by 
the quicker and more convenient spirit-varnishes which 
came in and thrust it out of the market, and these 
ready-made compounds proved excellent for furniture 
which is not prized for its resonant or variously tinted 
qualities, but they unfortunately put out of court the 
kind of varnish best suited for violins the yielding, 
soft, elastic oil varnish; and the very ingredients, e.g. 
dragon blood (of the liliacese trees), ceased to be in de- 
mand, and consequently disappeared from the Italian 


The materials being now absent, the varnish was 
differently composed. The trick of mixing it got lost 
along with the stuff to be mixed, and the Cremonese 
secret, once an open secret, lapsed and lapsed, as it 
seems, most irrecoverably. 

At one time every one knew how the ancient war- 
galleys were rowed ; how the Pyramids were built ; how 
Stonehenge was poised ; how the Medicean poisons were 
distilled, and how the old masters mixed their colours; 
now no one knows. 

Of the Cremona varnish it must be written, as we 
have to write of these unexplained disappearances of 
the lost and missing 

" Gone, and made no sign." 



"To scrape the inside of a cat with the outside of a 
horse " is far from an accurate or exhaustive description 
of violin playing, nor can I understand why violin 
strings are called cat-gut at all, since they are made 
from the intestines of the sheep, goat, or lamb, and 
have absolutely nothing to do with pussy. 

I can only suppose that the frightful and melancholy 
tones habitually elicited by inexperienced players may 
have reminded people of the nocturnal cat sufficiently 
to credit that maligned animal with providing part of 
the mechanical apparatus for their production. 

Of late years a great deal has been said about the 
extreme importance of the strings, of adapting the 
player to the fiddle's constitution, etc. I freely admit 
that some players with very strong hands, like Lindley 
and Dragonetti, can manage thicker strings with effect 
better than people with weaker muscles. I also admit 
generally that it would be a mistake to string a sensitive 
old Nicolo Amati with thick strings, which a robust 
Joseph or Bergonzi might be able to bear ; that a raw 
new fiddle to be rubbed down in the orchestra will also 
take to thick strings ; and that it is pretty obvious, as 


every player knows, that one cannot stop fifths in 
good tune if the strings are not relatively well pro- 

It is also a truism that it is best to buy the best 
strings, and that false strings are abominable. But I 
do not go much beyond this, and I would say about 
strings what I say about bows, that bad workmen 
always complain of their tools, and that, as Paganini was 
able although as a mere trick to discourse excellent 
music with a tobacco-pipe or a reed, so his admirers 
were often surprised to notice that he would go into 
the concert room with his strings very much out of 

Practically I do not suppose that one violinist in 
fifty uses a string-gauge ; he soon learns to judge 
sufficiently by the eye what his fingers want, what his 
tone requires, and what his violin exacts. 

Still, in these days of analysis and detail, there 
being nothing left untalked about, writers have fas- 
tened quite within the last thirty years on the strings ; 
but I have often noticed that players who fuss most 
over these details, which are doubtless of importance, 
are those who are least able to avail themselves of the 
perfect conditions which they seek. Perfect gut, rosin 
by rule, and an exquisitely poised bow, no more make a 
fiddler than scientific sanitation makes a healthy sub- 
ject. I cannot too persistently urge that the violinist 
bends conditions to the magic of his will and his 

His business is to qualify himself, and then get the 


best fiddle, bow, and strings that he can. This ought 
he to do, and not to leave the others undone. 

There is no reason to suppose that any advance in 
the manufacture of gut-strings has been made since 
the seventeenth century. Even a work by Le Eoy, 
dated 1570, gives the best recipe yet known for the 
detection of false strings. 

"It is needful," he says, "to prove them between 
the hands in the manner set forth in the figure " (which 
we reproduce) ; and he goes on to explain what every- 
body now knows that if two lines only appear, the 
string is true ; if more, false. But he fails to add that 
such a rough test only holds good for the thinner and 
simpler woven cords. In Doni's book (1647) we find 
such subtleties as these : " There are many particulars 
relating to the construction of instruments which are 
unknown to modern artificers, as, namely, that the best 
strings are made when the north (and the worst when 
the south) wind blows " a suggestive hint relating to 
the acknowledged importance of atmospheric, perhaps 
magnetic, and at any rate climatic, conditions. 

How do we make our strings ? 

Putting aside mature sheep and goats, we kill our 
young Italian lamb in September. We open him at 
once, and take the intestine whilst still warm ; stretch 
it on an inclined plane; scrape it and clean it 
thoroughly without delay. We then steep it for 
about fifteen hours in cold water, with a little car- 
bonate of soda, and then substitute tepid water for a 
few hours more. 


Now we are ready to remove the fibrous or muscular 
membrane from between the peritoneal and mucous 
membrane. This is done by women, who scrape it 
with a cane. The precious selected membranes are 
then soaked in jars containing an ammoniacal solution ; 
they are then rubbed through the fingers three times 
a day, treated with permanganate of potash, cleaned, 
sorted, cut, and split: and, finally, the threads are 
spun three or four thin threads for first violin strings, 
three or four thicknesses for the second, six or seven 
for " D " string. Double-bass strings take up to eighty- 
five threads. Further twistings, soakings, and polish- 
ings take place, into which we need not enter, and the 
strings are finally dressed with olive oil and then 

I have gone into these details to show with what 
care and complex elaboration string manufacture is 
carried on. 

The false string is due to inequalities, lumps, and 
varieties of texture in the gut; and if only the defec- 
tive part can be distributed either near the head or 
the tailpiece, outside the vibratory length, your false 
string becomes true. This is why the experiment of 
reversing the string, putting tail portion headwise or 
vice versd, will sometimes remedy the defect. 

For the fourth or silver string the gut or silk (which 
is used) is wrapped with pure silver, or copper, or alter- 
nate silver and copper wire. The beautiful French 
patent silver fourth, as smooth as polished steel, is 
incomparably best for solo playing ; it is also thinner, 


in my opinion too much thinner, than the mixed silver 
and copper fourths, which are very serviceable for 
rougher orchestral work. 

The vice of silver strings is to rise (and of gut strings 
to fall) with heat ; but if your screws are in perfect order, 
and you are expert enough, you will remedy either by 
a rapid subtle twist during a bar's rest, or a quick 
nipping the head of the peg between the first and 
third joint of your left-hand forefinger. I have seen 
Sarasate tune two pegs thus in the course of a very 
brief "tutti" 

Mr Hart may be accepted as a final authority on 
the relative merits and the different schools of violin 
strings at present in the market, and his dicta sub- 
stantially agree with my own experience. Of course 
he gives the palm to the Italian strings, which is largely 
due to the good climatic conditions, which enable their 
manufacture to be carried on in the open air and sun- 
light of that favoured clime. 

In Eome strings are yellowish, hard, and brilliant, 
and a little rough in finish. 

The Neapolitans are smooth, soft in texture, and 
whiter in appearance. 

The Paduans polished, durable, and frequently 
"false." Strings "made in Germany" (Saxony), as a 
set off against the swarms of trade German fiddles, 
rank next to Italian. 

The French rank third. Their larger strings are 
better than their seconds, which are often brittle; 
their patent first accrilelles, made of silk, are hard 


and brilliant, but not comparable, in my opinion, to a 
fine Koman gut " E " string. 

The English make a good, serviceable, dull green 
looking string, durable, uneven, and not unfrequently 
false. To my mind, English strings are only fit for rank- 
and-file orchestral fiddling, but not good enough for the 
leader. Mr Heron Allen, who has given great attention 
to such details, says that the best strings in the market 
are imported from Signor Andrew Kuffini of Naples, 
but I have always had a weakness for Koman strings. 

Too great caution, however, cannot be used in 
buying strings. Never buy from any but the best 
firms; they can't afford to keep "job lots, going vera 
chep " these may be bought up by provincial houses 
and retailed to an undiscerning public. 

Notice that small "job lot" people do not know 
how to keep their strings or, I should rather say, 
they keep them too long and too dry. 

It does not follow that even the best strings will 
turn out successes if they have been kept too long or 
too dry. 

I once ordered 1 worth of Roman " E " strings for 
myself, and another 1 worth for a friend. They all 
arrived as dry and brittle as mummy wood ; they all 
snapped as I put them on. In about a week I got a 
furious letter from my unfortunate friend who had 
trusted me all his strings had snapped. 

I have but one counsel to give. Take the best 
firm's advice and pay the best firm's price if you 
can afford it. Always keep a couple of tested, i.e. 


stretched " E " lengths in your case. If you are a soloist 
this will save you some annoyance and delay should 
your " E " string go in the middle of a performance. 

So far, then, and no further, need I discuss violin 
strings ; but there are two other violin adjuncts not 
important enough to call for a separate chapter. I allude 
to the mute and the chin-rest. The mute is occasionally 
fixed on the bridge to give the sound that singular 
faint far-off twang like the whisper of a ghostly violin. 
The mute has the singular property of making the 
violin abnormally sensitive for the time. The mute 
is made of wood, metal, or vulcanite; personally, I 
much prefer the metal mute it does the business 
more thoroughly. It is not a good practice to use the 
mute habitually while practising to subdue the sound. 
The violin really resents the use of the mute at all, 
but will put up with it for a short time (just as a 
good horse will not resent a spur or a bearing-rein in 
moderation). For a minute or two after the removal 
of the mute the violin does not quite recover its tone ; 
some of the particles in its wood have been exposed 
to a different or eccentric vibration by the dominating 
mute, and the full tonal vibration is not immediately 
recoverable. It is as though you had put a man in 
boots with leaden soles for a time, and then suddenly 
freed him ; he would not at once regain his full supple- 
ness of movement. 

Quite within the last thirty years the cult of chin- 
rests has become almost universal. When I was a boy 
people held the violin honestly under their chins, and 


a few used a silk pocket handkerchief. I much prefer 
it to this day; but something between the chin and 
the violin is no doubt good for the protection of old 
instruments already too much rubbed by centuries of 
beards and bristles. 

I have nothing to say against the various velvet, 
vulcanite, and ebony fixed substitutes for the homely 
pocket-handkerchief, except that in my eyes they are 
extremely ugly, and to my chin extremely uncomfort- 
able ; but I may be very much out of date, and in such 
minor matters "chacun h son goUt" or, as Pepys 
would say, " there's an end onV 



HE who wields the violin bow aright wields ttie wand 
of a magician. If ever mortal could call the spirits 
from the vasty deep, it is the virtuoso who throws into 
sympathetic vibrations the cords of a Cremona. 

The wood of his wand, from the forests of Fernam- 
buc or Pernambuco, choice and seasoned, and delicately 
graduated and tapering, receives through the varying 
pressure of his five fingers the waves of his personal 

The back of his thumb will often touch even the 
hairs which are in direct contact with the strings, and 
therefore the psychic and emotional vibrations of the 
artist's soul are wedded closely to the physical pulses 
of sound which throb in the agitated air column of the 
Cremona, and flow forth in the air waves (like light 
and heat), filling space with their musical magnetism, 
and seeking only the medium of kindred spirits and 
suitable organisms to utter through the vibrating 
human nerve tissues of others the open secrets of the 
player's soul. 

No Mesmer, or magician of the East, controls a more 
subtle force than does the violinist, who, face to face 
181 L 


with his audience, lifts his tapering wand and rules 
therewith the 

" Tides of music's golden sea setting towards eternity." 

By those who indite exhaustive historical or con- 
structive treatises on the violin the bow, like the 
violin, has been treated archseologically we have been 
led up to ancient monuments and shown bows (or things 
supposed to be bows) on vases, sculptured frescoes, 
missals and other monkish manuscripts. We have 
been sent out to wild islands and continents, and intro- 
duced to the Eavanastron bow of ancient Ceylon ; the 
bow of the Moorish rebab ; the ninth, eleventh, twelfth, 
and thirteenth century viol bows of Europe all more 
or less primitive, with sometimes gut for hair, or hair 
loose, hair limp, and with no means of regulating its 
tension except by the introduction of the fingers to 
press the hair or tighten it for a moment. 

In Paul Veronese's Marriage at Cana (Versailles) this 
is well shown. Paul himself was a viol player, and 
apparently held his bow chiefly by the hair for this 
same regulative purpose. 

C. Simpson (the division "viol"), 1667, gives a some- 
what more advanced viol bow, in which the hand splits 
the difference between wood and hair and rests on 
both (Fig. iii.). Of course, when held to the chin, this 
clumsy finger regulation of the hair tension would be 
less convenient to manage, and hence we come upon 
the eighteenth century with a strip of notched metal 
(Fig. iv.) and a movable sliding nut. 

Me Amgti 
/(, l+l 


Jos g/> n ua rnerius 



I Corel 1 1 I]00 

Finder control 



CremaLliere control 




PLATE X (to face page 162; 

This plate of backs, bellies, and bows, lias been fully 
explained in the text. 


As for our purpose the violin proper began in the 
eighteenth century with the emergence of its true type 
from the viol tribe, so for our purpose the violin bow 
begins with the emergence of the violin. A glance at 
the bows of Corelli (1700), Cramer (1770), Viotti (1780), 
and Tartini (1740) (Fig. vi.) will show the evolution in 
the direction of the Tourte bow ; and although Tourte 
(1740) is generally credited with substituting the screw 
for the cre*inaillere, it will be noticed that Corelli's 
bow (1700) has already got the screw. But is the 
Corelli bow authentic, or in reality a bow subsequent 
to 1740, the earliest working date of Tourte pbre? 

With Francois Tourte, the younger son, culminated 
the art of violin bow making. He is the Stradivari of 
the bow. We give his portrait, but father and son 
were both master-workers. Although the Stentor (Fig. 
vi.) bow's head has superseded, for some reason, the 
more rounded form of Francois Tourte, nothing has been 
done since in advance of Tourte, and "after Tourte" 
is still the greatest recommendation a bow can have. 

It is easy to see what called forth Frangois Tourte. 
He came in answer to a need. He doubtless heard of 
Tartini and examined his bow. It was comparatively 
short and cumbrous. Forty years afterwards Viotti 
comes to Paris, and with him dawns a new era in 
violin playing. Refinements and delicacies of tone, 
upper shifts and varieties of execution, various styles 
of bowing, dealing with staccato, arpeggio, and rubato, 
methods varied and brought to perfection, demanded 
qualities of balance, lightness, and elasticity which 


would have been quite thrown away on the old sawing 
and scraping school of the seventeenth century. The 
very Cremona violins, beginning to mature as the 
century waned, called aloud for a suitable and sym- 
pathetic companion to caress, excite, charm, draw 
from them their sweetest tones and most vigorous 

FranQois Tourte was rescued from the clock -making 
business, to which he had been early apprenticed, by 
the sheer bent of his own genius. His brother, who 
worked with his father, was not the genius, and, as is 
often the case, the father failed to see which of the 
two sons was to carry on the fame of the house, and 
there may have been jealousies and disputes besides. 
The poor stuff given Frangois to work upon when, 
after eight years of watch-making, he was allowed to 
enter the parental workshop a little, suggests that he 
was the male Cinderella of the family. 

He had to deal with strips of old sugar-barrels and 
fashion them into bows, which he sold for about fifteen- 
pence each. But as soon as he got a free hand he ex- 
perimented with all kinds of wood, and arrived at the 
conclusion that the only wood suitable for his purpose 
was Fernambuc wood. It combined stiffness and light- 
ness, but was very difficult to obtain, on account of so 
many ports being in those disturbed times blockaded. 
Fernambuc wood was only imported for dyeing pur- 
poses, and the price had risen in Paris to five francs a 
pound. Then, as only pieces with straight grain were 
required, whole trees might be cut up in search of a 


few likely strips. This accounts for the high prices 
of Tourte bows, even when first produced. 

They were doubtless largely labours of love with this 
matchless artificer, who could neither read nor write. 
The nut would be often made of tortoise-shell, jewelled 
with mother-of-pearl, and gleaming with a gold screw ( 
button. These cost 12, and would now fetch, if ever 
they came into the open market, fancy prices. His 
bows, mounted in silver with ebon nuts, sold for three 
guineas, and now fetch 30. 

Tourte pbre originated the backward bend of the 
bow, which is not cut but artificially bent by heat ; but 
both the father's and the eldest son's bows are held to 
be now too short for the strain of execution put upon 
them by modern players not so Francois Tourte's, 
and all bows made " after Tourte." 

He fixed the proportions length, between 29134 
inches and 29 '528 inches. The weight of the bend is 
nicely poised with the gold, tortoise-shell, or ebon of 
the nut ; in each is a small wedge, as may be seen in 
Fig. viii., which nips the hairs and keeps them flat. The 
fine selection of hairs, 150 to 200 (modern exigencies 
require more, or up to 250), the careful flattening of it 
out, the preference for live hair, or hair combed out 
and not taken from dead horses who may have lain 
some time in the shambles ; above all, the exquisitely 
graduated thicknesses, now held to be de rigueur, all 
characterise the intuitive genius of Tourte. 

I say advisedly "intuitive genius," for Tourte had 
no education but that of a watch-maker. This may, 



indeed, have given him his fine sense of delicate and 
exact proportions, but it is still remarkable that exami- 
nations of the diameter of Tourte bows in different 
places give uniform results. The bows swell or taper 
in the same place, and as the air columns in the violins 
of Strad give the same note, so do the bows of Tourte 
yield the same proportions, which it has not been found 
safe or expedient to depart from. 

Violin bows may be smaller or larger, i.e. shorter 
or longer, as far as I can see, without any detriment 
to Tourte's principle; children, women, and excep- 
tionally long armed men may have to use them, 
but the proportions, the wood, the balance, even 
the mechanique, must be left as Tourte left them 

The one point in mechanique in which the invention 
of F. B. Vuillaume may be thought to have improved 
upon Tourte is in his fixed nut for viola, tenor, or 
violoncello bows. This consists of a metal nut, which 
alone is moved by the screw up and down inside the 
main nut, which remains rigid ; thus the length of the 
hair exposed for playing always remains the same. 

The only other original maker of the first rank and 
excellence, who has been nicknamed the English Tourte, 
was John Dodd. He was born in 1752, and lived chiefly 
at Kew, and there he was buried. He was always out 
at elbows, even when his reputation was at its height. 
Poor Dodd had his friends and admirers. He was his 
own worst enemy; he was undersized in stature, and 
walked with a shuffling gait. He wore his clothes until 


they were in rags, and a broad-brimmed hat somehow 
gave him an additionally dilapidated air. 

I am afraid he drank, for although his habits were 
said to be regular, the most regular of them all was 
his four daily visits to the public-house, where he 
consumed what to less experienced topers seemed an 
immoderate quantity of a drink called " pearl." 

When the old fellow was known to be excessively 
hard up, kind Mr Eichard Platt, a musical professor 
of the town, and Dr Selle*, who has given us some of 
the above details, came to the rescue. But the bow- 
maker tired them all out, and ended at last in the 
Kichmond Workhouse. 

I will not say whether he can be exactly cited as a 
frightful example of the degrading effects of liquor, 
for he died of bronchitis at the altogether respectable 
age of eighty-four. 

Indeed, he had his qualities; no bribe or stress of 
want could make him swerve from his sense of what 
was due to his art. 

His wood is as magnificent as his workmanship. He 
doubtless had his secret, but it was possibly one that 
he could not impart. He would take no apprentice, 
for fear he should learn the trick; and whether he 
could or could not teach it, he refused 1000 offered 
him by some one who wanted to learn it. Dodd's bows 
are not very uncommon; he died only in 1836, and, 
strange to say, these true musical wands do not run 
into a five-pound note yet (1898). 

John Dodd the bow-maker must not be confounde4 


with Thomas Dodd the fiddle dealer and varnisher, 
who employed Fendt and Lott to make the fiddles. 
John Dodd the bow-maker was the brother of Thomas 
Dodd. John lived in Blue Bell Alley, Mint Street, 
Southwark, before he went to Kew, but the rustic 
suburbs suited his habits, and as he had acquired a 
European reputation before he died, it little mattered 
where he lived. 

Vuillaume of Paris made excellent bows, and even 
founded a school of bow-making. Many bows that 
don't sell as his are stamped "d'apres Vuillaume," 
"scuola de," which is certainly more respectable than 
a forged label to which violin dealers do so commonly 

Vuillaume's hollow steel bows have never "caught 
on," though good players have used them now and 
again. But then a good player can use any bow, 
and whilst a good bow is a luxury, a real violinist will 
be able to perform very respectably with a bad one. 
It is said that Paganini on one occasion excited the 
wonder and enthusiasm of his audience by performing 
on his instrument with a long churchwarden clay pipe, 
and at another time with a rush ! 

It would be unfair even in a sketch like this, which 
only professes to seize the salient point of general 
interest to collectors and amateurs, not to mention 
Jacques Lafleur (1760-1832), an admirable imitator 
of Tourte. 

Lupot, brother of the great violin-maker (1774-1837), 
was the first to line with metal the groove in the under- 


side of the nut, to prevent wear and tear of the ebony 
or tortoise-shell. 

Domininique Peccate (1810-74) is also thought to 
have almost rivalled Tourte. He was originally a barber, 
and transferred the delicacy of hand required in ton- 
sorial operations to the fine adjustments and elegant 
tapering and octagonal proportions of violin bows. 

Peccate went to Vuillaume in 1826, stayed with 
him eleven years, and then became foreman to FranQois 
Lup6t. He ended his life at Mirecourt, where he 
began it; latterly he worked entirely on his own 

We have now among us one James Tubbs, whose 
bows are already known throughout the world owing 
to their attractive appearance and good balance. Time 
will alone decide Tubbs' position in the scale of bow- 
makers, for time alone will determine the question 
of "last," "warp," and flexibility, and general en- 
durance of efficiency. 

On rosin, about which pages have been unnecessarily 
written, I have but one word to say get it pure. 
You can do this by confining yourself to the best 
shops, or those who deal with them. Go to Hill, 
Chanot, Hart, Withers, and Vuillaume. 

Some ignorant people talk of rosin as "greasing 
the bow." Smooth horsehair or greased horsehair is, 
of course, useless. It is not the absence but the pres- 
ence of friction which sets the strings in vibration; 
it is the surface of the horsehair, roughened by in- 
finitesimal particles of rosin, which prevents the horse- 


hair touching the string with a continuous pressure, 
so that it receives in reality a succession of tiny shocks. 
This is what renders the succession of vibrations so 
rapid as to sound continuous. 

Without rosin, the violin, in spite of strings and 
bow, and the art of all Cremona, would be mute. 

To average rosiners let me give a word of advice, 
early given me by my old master, Ouri, pupil of Frank 
Mori: "Don't rub the horsehair down smooth with 
long sweeps, but powder the rosin off into the hair 
with quick rubs and a light hand ; in this way you 
avoid rubbing the oleaginous particles of the gum 
into stickiness." 

I notice that the best players use plenty of rosin 
and never let the bow get thirsty. I remember the 
matchless violinist Eemenye taking up my violin and 
bow and calling aloud for rosin. "Why, you have 
no rosin on; you cannot expect the violin to speak 
without." Yet I thought my bow had plenty of 
rosin on, but it was not enough for Eemenye, who 
powdered it away in clouds. But please to remem- 
ber that, however thirsty the bow may be, the violin 
does not require to drink, and the habit of smothering 
and smearing its beautiful smooth belly with thin gluti- 
nous dust is a most vile one, and worthy only of third- 
rate second violins at fourth-rate music halls. These 
musical galley-slaves may not have time to clean up ; 
you of the Stradivari and the Amati violins and the 
Tourte and the Dodd bows ought to have, or you 
are no fit guardian of such treasures, 



THIS extraordinary man, originally an obscure Italian 
carpenter, at once created and answered that demand 
for Italian violins which followed both in England, 
and to a great extent in France, the rage for the 
German, and especially German of the Stainer and 
Klotz pattern. 

Luigi Tarisio, like W. Forster, eked out the scanty 
income which he derived from making tables and 
benches for the peasants by playing dance music on 
a very poor fiddle at village routs. 

He wandered from place to place, what time the 
vintages were being gathered in, and the simple folk, 
who turned out in their Sunday finery for a little re- 
laxation and merriment, doubtless regaled the Italian 
carpenter with open-hearted hospitality, whilst he, in 
return, mended their benches and fiddled for them at 
the vineyard cabarets. 

Our Charles Mathews has given in his delightful 
autobiography interesting glimpses of that free, open- 
air, open-hearted life; for he also, for a time, lived 
amongst these rustics of a favoured clime, enjoying 

their simple pleasures, and contributing in bis ows 


peculiar way, by his histrionic gifts and a somewhat 
free-handed distribution of coin, to their revels and 
their needs. 

Luigi Tarisio soon began to be dominated by the 
spell of his violin; he got to notice other violins, to 
repair them all in the way of trade, to possess them, 
not always very honestly, pitting his own growing 
knowledge of their merits against the ignorance or 
necessity of their owners. Gradually Tarisio the car- 
penter and Tarisio the fiddler seemed to be merged 
in Tarisio the cunning repairer and Tarisio the still 
more knowing buyer. 

He bought chiefly by exchange, for money he had 
little or none; but he began in the early years of 
this nineteenth century to lead that nomad life as 
it seemed to outsiders, the life of a common pedlar 
which enabled him to glide without suspicion into 
half the sacristies and convents in Italy. 

Wherever he went, bag on shoulder, and basket of 
tools in hand, his cry was not " knives to grind," nor 
"shoes to mend," but "violins to repair." 

He usually had with him a decoy violin or two, in 
the shape of common fiddles in good playing order; 
and over a glass of lemonade or a bottle of wine, in 
some local cafe* or monasterial domicile of priest or 
cathedral musician, the cunning Tarisio would view 
with unaffected pity the miserable old battered Cre- 
monas which were then lurking in a thousand eccle- 
siastical nooks, split as with the "wolf," ill-adjusted, 
ill-strung, and generally out of sorts, and whipping out 


his common fiddle in perfect order, would play a few 
notes on each, so manifestly to the disadvantage of 
the Cremona that an exchange was soon effected, and 
Tarisio would decamp with an Amati, a Strad, a Joseph 
or Bergonzi treasure, which, after a little clever mend- 
ing, might be worth a fortune; and in this way he 
possessed himself, often for a few francs, of instru- 
ments which now fetch over 1000 in the open market 
if ever they get there. 

Tarisio, with the infallible instinct of a born col- 
lector and connoisseur, in a few years was able to gauge 
accurately the merits of the different great Italian 
makers. He knew exactly where to rank the Amatis, 
and how to separate the qualities of the great Nicolo 
from those of Andrea ; he understood the supreme 
excellence of Antonio and the power of Giuseppe, and 
all other grades of merit of which even the admirers 
of the Cremona school in England seemed entirely 
ignorant of. All Amatis at that time were lumped 
together, and Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri were 
hardly known at all. 

But Tarisio knew all this, and a good deal more, 
before he tossed his heavy bag of old violins one day 
over his shoulder and set out, they say, on foot, or 
anyhow else he could, for Paris; for what market 
was there in Italy for such priceless Cremonas when 
their owners were prepared to give them up for fiddles 
worth from five to twenty shillings ? 

But why did Tarisio go to Paris? He probably 
judged wisely that the Stainer craze, and the huge 


crop of common violins then being made in Germany, 
would have killed his market nearer home. Then he 
must have heard when a boy how Napoleon I. had 
ransacked the art treasures of Italy, and how, under 
the advice of the cultivated Marquis d'Aveze, who 
had narrowly enough escaped the guillotine in 1793, 
the great conqueror had inaugurated a high Art 
Exhibition for the people. 

The famous bronze-gilt horses from S. Marco, Venice, 
the Dying Gladiator, the Apollo Belvedere, the Cupid 
and Psyche from Kome, and Raffaello's Transfigura- 
tion itself, had been carried in triumphant procession 
through the streets of Paris, and installed in a vast 
hall for the benefit and instruction of the people. Of 
course a rage for everything Italian was the result, and 
the shrewd Tarisio may have thought, why not a rage 
for old Italian fiddles ? 

One day in the year 1827 there arrived at the shop 
of M. Aldric, at that time a famous violin dealer in 
Paris, a travel-worn man in ragged clothes, who had 
begged and fiddled his way for days and weeks across 
country. He carried a huge dustman's sack over his 
shoulder. He seemed to M. Aldric a very poor sort 
of pedlar, grimy and unkempt enough to claim kinship 
with the man who had " used somebody's soap sixteen 
years ago, since when he had used no other." 

The fashionable violin dealer was at first inclined to 
show him the door, but probably something in Tarisio's 
independent manner betrayed that indefinable quality 
we call character, and, more in amusement or out of 


pity than with any serious intent to make a deal, M. 
Aldric allowed the pedlar to empty his sack of fiddles 
on his counter. It is easy to imagine his astonishment 
at what he saw ; but he seems to have kept up his indif- 
ferent manner, not supposing the poor creature before 
him could be in the least aware of the treasures he 
sought to dispose of. 

M. Aldric was soon undeceived. 

He quickly found the tables turned upon him. 

The clever French tradesman was conversing with the 
greatest violin connoisseur that the world has ever seen, 
or in all human probability ever will see, for no one can 
ever again have Tarisio's opportunities, even should he 
unite in himself Tarisio's extraordinary qualities. 

Now, the pedlar, with all his enthusiasm and self- 
sacrifice, was a man of exceeding cunning, and had that 
tact, quickness, affability, and bonhomie which is well 
known to tourists in Italy, and has often proved so 
fatal to the amateur of old laces, pottery, and objects 
de vertu, or to such as may have tried to do a little 
fancy collecting as they passed through the Italian 
towns, and haggled over bargains in small curiosity- 
shops and market-places. So, with due astuteness, the 
shrewd carpenter had not brought his best wares on 
this his first visit; he had come on a voyage of dis- 
covery, and only produced a small pattern Nicolo 
Amati, and half a dozen Maggini, Kuggerii, and such- 
like. He had with him no Strad, no Joseph, not even 
a grand pattern Nicolo, but he had brought enough. 

M. Aldric, concealing his emotion, and fervently 


hoping the shabby man did not know the value of 
his wares, offered him a small sum for the lot, which 
Tarisio refused, doubtless with those picturesque in- 
vocations of horror to the Virgin and all the Saints 
which seem necessary to the Italian who attempts to 
convey to a " screw " the mingled indignation and pity 
excited in his generous and artistic breast by a mean 

Tarisio was certainly disappointed; but he forgot 
that he himself had to create the market; and so at 
last he left, with his empty bag indeed, but with his 
ragged pockets far from full. 

Back to Italy, back to his monasteries and cabarets, 
a little dazzled ; but, with unabated energy, he recom- 
menced his search. 

He was now beginning to be known far and wide as 
a clever repairer and a convenient dealer. As his stock 
of good, bad, and indifferent fiddles increased he could 
offer a greater selection, and readily parted with the 
worst ones, nicely done up, to his ignorant and confid- 
ing but not over-wealthy Italian patrons. 

When next he journeyed to Paris he met with a dif- 
ferent reception. Vuillaume, Thibaut, and Chanot the 
elder opened their privileged doors to him, and espe- 
cially Vuillaume had the acumen to see that in Tarisio 
he had lighted upon what gold-diggers call a veritable 
" pocket," and gave him higher and higher prices for the 
harvest of Amatis, Strads, Guarneri, and Bergonzis which 
now flowed steadily into Paris through this odd medium. 

Tarisio was far more than a connoisseur and dealer ; 


he was a singular and most whole-hearted enthusiast. 
As the novelist Charles Eeade (who was himself a great 
fiddle dealer and knew Tarisio) has well said, "The 
man's whole soul was in his fiddles. He was a great 
dealer, but a greater amateur. He had gems by him 
which no money would buy from him." Mr Eeade 
then goes on to relate how once, when a splendid 
equipage rolled by him in Paris, the carpenter re- 
marked, "He would sooner possess one Strad than 
twenty such carriages." He would stalk the back 
or the belly of a valuable fiddle until he recovered 
the whole, just as the Eoman antiquary stalked the 
fragments of the Hercules Farnese, finding the trunk 
in one place and the head in a ditch miles away. 

Chanot had stumbled upon the cracked belly of a 
Strad violin in Spain. Ortega, the fiddle-maker, had 
sold the remainder, ribs and back, to a Spanish lady, 
fitting them nicely with a brand-new back made by 
himself! The precious belly caught Tarisio's eye in 
the shop window, and he at last worried Chanot into 
parting with it for 1000 francs. Off went Tarisio to 
Madrid, extracted from the bewildered Ortega, who 
had sold the patched Strad, the required information, 
interviewed the donna who possessed the patched 
Strad, and who, after the fashion of the high-born 
Spaniard, at once said, " Sir, the instrument is at your 
disposition," which only meant that she would part 
with it for a consideration, or what she considered 
to be the good round sum of 4000 francs. This waa 
a mere bagatelle for such a treasure, which, refitted 



with its own belly by Vuillaume, ib now known as the 
Spanish Bass. 

It was sold for 800, and exhibited in the south 
Kensington Collection of 1872 (No. 188). 

On one occasion, says Charles Reade, Tarisio was 
crossing the Bay of Biscay with his famous Spanish 
Baas. The ship rolled; Tarisio clasped his treasure 
tightly and trembled. It was a terrible gale, and for 
one whole day they were in real danger. " Tarisio spoke 
of it to me/' continues his friend, "with a shudder. 
'Ah! my poor Mr Eeade/ he exclaimed, 'the Bass 
of Spain was all but lost!" 1 As to Tarisio also being 
lost, that did not seem to matter so much I 

It is not too much to say that, with hardly a 
memorable exception, all the great Cremonese and 
Brescian fiddles, which now command such prix fous, 
have passed through the cunning hands of Luigi 
Tarisio the pedlar, and most of them have at one 
time been benefited by the tender and artistic skill 
of Vuillaume, his great patron. 

When Tarisio, who by this time wore a decent 
coat, and no longer carried Cremonas in a sack on 
his back, visited England in 1851, he was received by 
the whole trade as a person of rare quality, as indeed 
he was. 

Mr John Hart took him to see Mr Goding's unique 
collection. As one by one the owner took his treasures 
out of a glass cabinet, before ever he had got within 
two paces of Tarisio, he was amazed at hearing their 
names called out. A glance was sufficient. Tarisio had 


had them all through his hands the "King" Guar- 
nerius, Lafont's Guarnerius, the matchless Bergonzi, 
the Marquis de la Kosa's Amati, Ole Bull's Guarnerius, 
the famous Serafino 'cello, called the Beauty all of 
which might never have reached Mr Goding had it 
not been for the enterprise and indomitable energy of 
the Italian carpenter who now stood before him. 

Barring a narrow circle of dealers, it may seem 
strange that so remarkable a man should not have 
been more widely known and esteemed during his life- 
time; but we can well understand that the restricted 
circle of dealers amongst whom he moved, did not 
find it to their interest to place their special Cremona 
" pocket " within reach of the wealthy amateurs out of 
whom they themselves were busy making their market. 

Tarisio, had he been dealer first and enthusiast 
second, might have done better financially ; but he did 
not do badly, and he wanted little except the privilege 
of handling Cremonas to the end of his life and dying 
in their good company. 

He did both. Although there was a strain of geni- 
ality about Tarisio, he never seemed to unbend except 
in the company of fellow-enthusiasts ; and as he was 
too cautious to give himself away to Italians, from 
whom he was gradually securing the spoils which 
built up his fortune, fame, and immortality, the 
only people who really knew Tarisio were the few 
foreigners like Vuillaume, the Chanots in France, 
John Hart the dealer and Charles Reade the novelist 
in England. 


In his own land he remained to the end nothing but 
the quiet, unobtrusive repairer and occasional dealer in 
dilapidated fiddles. 

It seems he had removed to Milan, where he was 
quite safely hidden, along with his fiddles, up in an 
attic at the top of a second-class restaurant in the Via 
Legnano Porta Tegnaglia. 

No one was ever allowed to enter his room. H> 
locked himself in, and he locked himself out. They 
saw him going up and down the staircase, and that is 
all they saw of him. 

One day in 1854 Tarisio dragged himself up those 
stairs for the last time. Whether he had any pre- 
monition of his end, none may know certainly no one 
was with him when he died -only it was noticed that 
he locked himself in, but came out no more; nor 
had he gone down to the restaurant for any of the 
necessaries of life. 

At last the neighbours thought it time to ascertain 
what was taking place in that mysterious attic. They 
seemed to have watched his strange movements closely, 
but their efforts to find out who he was and how he lived 
had been hitherto fruitless, as he made a point of carry- 
ing on his particular and nomadic business at a distance 
from his abode. They were not going to be baulked 
any longer, so they knocked, but there was no answer. 

At last they broke open the door, and a strange and 
piteous sight burst upon them. There, on a squalid 
couch, lay the pedlar, quite dead. 

Around him all seemed chaos piles of fiddle-boxes, 


fiddles in and out of cases, tenors, 'cellos, violins in 
pieces and violins whole. Half a dozen Strads there; 
a Gasparo (afterwards Mr Bennett's), a Euggieri (Mr 
T. E. Bradson's); about a hundred Italian fiddles, by 
different makers. 

Here, too, was found the " Messie " or " Messiah." 

These trophies created little enthusiasm at the time, 
\>ut to the joy of the relatives, two nephews, who had 
been hunted up with difficulty by the municipal autho- 
rities, a sealed packet was found containing valuable 
securities and a considerable amount of gold. 

The rest is matter of common history. 

The instant his friend and patron Vuillaume heard 
of the magician's death he hurried to Milan, and visited 
the nephews at their farmhouse. 

" Where are the fiddles ? " 

" At Milan ; but we have six here." 

On the spot Vuillaume opened the cases. The first 
contained a splendid Strad, the second a Joseph del 
Gesu, the third a Carlo Bergonzi, the fourth and fifth 
two Guaclagninis, and the last the famous Messiah, 
preserved by Count Cozio de Salabue, intact until 
1824, when it was bought by Tarisio. 

Vuillaume came to terms with the nephews for these 
six, and then lost not a moment in visiting the famous 
attic at Milan, where he found 246 more, which he 
bought at once for 3166, leaving the astonished heirs 
no doubt laughing in their sleeves, under the impression 
that the gobe-mouche of a, Frenchman had been nicely 
hi-diddle-diddled by the wily Italians, 


When we remember that a couple only of these gems 
would realise now more than the sum Vuillaume paid 
for the lot, we may well remember the proverb, " He 
laughs best who laughs last." 


I have, advisedly steered clear in this collector's 
volume of violin-players and violin-music, excepting 
in so far as they acted or reacted in any way upon the 
violin and its progress towards perfection. From this 
point of view, the growth of music appears to be re- 
sponsible for the definition and survival (as the fittest) 
of the violin, violoncello, and double bass ; and virtuo- 
sity is certainly responsible for the lengthening of the 
violin-neck and finger-board, the strengthening of the 
sound-bar to resist an increased string-tension, and 
the lengthening of the bow. But virtuosity can claim 
nothing more than these trifling details. The Strad 
pattern of 1684 to 1700 has remained completely 
unaffected by the feats, vagaries, or demands of 

In this the grand pattern violin stands out in sharp 
and singular contrast to the old grand pianoforte. The 
imperious demands of Liszt and Thalberg, Eubinstein 
and his followers, have compelled a series of improve- 
ments in strength, sonority, delicate mechanism, and 
sensibility, undreamed of by the old firms, and only 
perfected by the later Erards, Broadwoods, Collards, 
and S Loin way s. But not a single substantial improve- 

PLATE XI (to face page 

Portraits of Paganini abound. Landseer sketched 
a series, which, however, are slightly of the nature of 
caricatures. It was difficult to do otherwise. The 
Maestro's features were so marked, his long hair so 
weird, the tall forehead, the wide sensitive mouth, the 
dark eyes, the ungainly and gaunt, almost dislocated 
attitudes of the man lent themselves freely to a lively 
and not always sympathetic or respectful pencil. The 
portrait, a rare ore, here produced, hits the happy 
mean. The finest representation of him is, however, 
Danton's small bust (admirably reproduced by Mrs 
Haweis' pencil in " My Musical Life," where see my 
biographical study of Paganini). 


mem has been made in the violin since the last one left 
the hand of the great Antonio at Cremona, and not 
even a trifling modification of any sort has been adopted 
or applied to the grand violin of the golden period for 
at least a century. The excuse then for introducing 
the name and portrait of Paganini into this book is 
not because he reacted in the least degree upon the 
art of violin-making, but because he accepted it as an 
absolutely finished art, and asked for nothing which 
he found not in Strad and Joseph. 

Now this is important and interesting, because 
Paganini was the greatest of all players in this cul- 
minating century of the musical art a man admittedly 
unsurpassed in the opinion of violin experts like John 
Ella, Cipriani Potter, Onry, and others, who, for forty 
years after his death, listened to all the phenomenal 
violinists of an age which boasts of Ernst, Joachim, 
Wieinawski, and Sarasate and Ysaye. As it has not 
been possible to produce the face and figure of any of 
these great old makers, with the one exception of Lupot, 
who belongs at best to the silver age, I have thought 
it worth while to glorify their work by reproducing the 
grand though eccentric face and figure of the one man 
who has invested their chef-d'ceuvres with that romantic 
glamour, that almost unearthly prestige which the violin 
alone amongst instruments can lay claim to. 

Paganini's favourite violin, a Joseph Guarnerius, lies 
in its case under glass to this hour, open for all eyes 
to inspect, in the Town Hall at Genoa, his native town, 
to which he has bequeathed it. His dying directions, 


that nc one should ever play upon it, recall Shake- 
speare's curse upon those who should move his bones. 
The great musician's orders have not been quite so 
scrupulously observed as those of the immortal bard 
of Avon. In "My Musical Life" will be found my 
"Homage a Paganini," together with a woodcut of 
Dan ton's very fine bust, given to me by John Ella, 
who played in the orchestra among the violins when 
first Paganini visited England. 

Nothing is so ephemeral as the fame of an orator, 
actor, or musician, unless they leave books or music 
behind them. Henceforth the phonograph may do 
something to give future generations some idea of the 
fascination which lived and died with them; but no 
phonograph will ever give us even a faint echo of 
Siddons' declamation or Paganini's playing; these are 
alike buried with the generation which they charmed 
and electrified. But in Leigh Hunt's description of 
Paganini's performance we have something like a pic- 
torial phonograph, if I may hazard the hibernianism, of 
the " Pale Musician's " mighty personality and power. 
Somewhere between the forties and fifties, I remember, 
as a very young boy, standing awestruck before a thin, 
gaunt, dislocated wax effigy of Paganini in an ill-fitting 
dresscoat, with wild dreamy eyes and arm uplifted high 
just as Leigh Hunt describes him before his bow 
came down like a crash of thunder on the strings ; but 
let the lively and graphic essayist who heard him, speak 
for himself : 

" Paganini, the first time I saw and heard him, and the 


first time he struck a note, seemed literally to strike it, to 
give it a blow. The house was so crammed that, being 
among the squeezers in the standing-room at the side of 
the pit, I happened to catch the first glance of his face, 
through the arm akimbo of a man who was perched up 
before me, which made a kind of frame for it; and 
there, on the stage in that frame, as through a per- 
spective glass, were the face bent and the raised hand 
of the wonderful musician, with the instrument at his 
chin, just going to commence, and looking exactly 

as I described htm 

' His hand, 

Loading the air with dumb expectancy, 
Suspending ere it fell a nation's breath, 
He smote, and clinging to the serious chordftj 
With godlike ravishment drew forth a breath 
So deep, so strong, so fervid thick with love, 
Blissful yet laden as with twenty prayers, 
That Juno yearned with no diviner soul 
To the first burthen of the lips of Jove. 
Th' exceeding mystery of the loveliness 
Sadden'd delight, and With his mournful look 
Dreary and gaunt, hanging his pallid face 
Twixt his dark flowing locks, he almost seem d 
Too feeble, or to melancholy eyes 
One that has parted with his soul for pride. 
And in the sable secret lived forlorn.* 

To show the depth and identicalness of the impression 
which he made upon everybody, foreign or native, an 
Italian, .who stood near me, said to himself after a sigh, 
' Dio ! ' and this had not been said long when another 
person in the same manner exclaimed, '0 Christ!' 
Musicians pressed forward from behind the scenes to 
get as close to him as possible, and they could not 
sleep at night for thinking of him." 




MIRECOURT in Lorraine has the glory of being associ- 
ated from so early a date as 1566 with the Cremona 

Andrew Amati, who made six small fiddles for 
Charles IX. about that time, employed Nicolas Een- 
auld of Nancy, who was a pupil of the celebrated 
Mirecourt lutist Tywersus, to assist him in finishing 
these important court orders, which did so much to 
establish the supremacy of the "petit violon" over 
the crowd of competing viols which then held the 
popular ear, and, as we have seen, died very hard. 

The great princes of Lorraine occupied a castle of 
pleasure called Kavenel, at a short distance from 

These accomplished noblemen, touched with Floren- 
tine culture, often made excursions into Lombardy, 
and delighted in the refinements of the Italian prince- 
doms and duchies. 

They brought back with them pictures, ironwork, 
laces, musical instruments. 



Tywersus, their private lute-maker, was deeply in- 
fluenced by the work and models of the early Amatis, 
and from the school of Tywersus came Nicolas Ren- 
auld, Jean Medard, and Nicolas Medard. When 
Amati left Paris, whither he had gone to present his 
violins in person to Charles IX., he left behind him 
Nicolas Eenaulcl, who slipped into the lucrative post 
of luthier to his French Majesty, and we find his 
friend and co-worker Medard installed in the same 
fat office under the Grand Monarque, Louis XIV., 
who, with his expensive mistresses, certainly spared no 
money or patronage to secure those who could in any 
way minister to the extravagant court pomp and artistic 
amusements of the Pompadour and the Petit Trianon. 

Meanwhile Mirecourt, in the heart of the Vosges 
mountains, with easy access to the grand timbers of 
their ancient forests, within beck and call of Lombardy, 
and in close touch with the great Italian fiddle- 
makers, Mirecourt long held supremacy as one of, if 
not the most important mart of fiddle manufacture. 

It shared with Mittenwald and Markneukirchen 
the honour of supplying that rapidly growing violin 
market which was now springing up, and whilst 
Cremona made largely for home consumption and a 
few foreign courts, Mirecourt undertook the more 
modest but equally useful duty of multiplying Cremona 
school violins, which circulated far and wide throughout 
the French provinces, and frequently reached our own 
shores ; indeed the fiddles often passed for Cremonae. 

The popularity of these Cromona replicas brought 


on that inevitable deterioration in quality which always 
follows over-rapid production and cheap wares, and 
at one time Mirecourt, in spite of its elaborate in- 
dustry, was fast becoming a byword for bad fiddles. 
Happily the danger was seen and speedily checked, and 
Mirecourt now stands out as perhaps the greatest and 
most excellent emporium of modern violin manufacture. 

All who wish to know what can be known, go to Mire- 
court, just as people who study art go to Eome and 
Florence, or people who study the fashions go to Paris. 

To Mirecourt we owe Eambaux, who was born there 
in 1802 and died there only in 1870. 

Francis and George Chanot both came from there. 

The Lupot family are claimed as natives of Mire- 
court, although the greatest of them, Nicolas, whose 
violins run some of the finest specimens of Cremona 
very hard, was a native of Stuttgard. His father was 
a Frenchman, and came from Mirecourt. All his tradi- 
tions belong to Mirecourt, and these, as we all know, 
he carried with him to Paris, where he died in 1824, 
and was succeeded by Gand. 

The names of Maucotel, Medard, Menegand, Sil- 
vestre, and Deragay, and above all Vuillaume, must 
always shed an imperishable lustre upon the little town 
in the Vosges mountains. 

Every one of the Vuillaumes, eight in number, in- 
cluding the immortal Jean Baptiste, were born at 
Mirecourt. Two settled at Brussels, three at Paris, 
but all the others lived and died at Mirecourt. 

William Ebs worth Hill was careful to send his sons 


to this celebrated school of violin art, and we may 
be sure that they did not come away until they had 
possessed themselves of everything that Mirecourt had 
to teach the violin maker or the connoisseur. 

M. Thibouville Lamy of Mirecourt, who has trade 
branches in Paris and London, manufactures a violin 
at about 3s. lOd. cost price, selling at about 4s. 6d. ; 
but Markneukirchen probably leads in cheapness and 
quantity, if not quality, turning out quite playable 
fiddles for the modest figure of 1 to 2, 10s. 

The best Mirecourt fiddles will fetch from 6 to 10. 

The Gand and Bernardel prices range from 16 to 

The ever-increasing demands for " trade fiddles " of 
all kinds, as distinguished from the solo violins reserved 
for the use of virtuosi, has called forth an abundance 
of fair makers beyond the limits of Mirecourt, Mitten- 
wald, and Markneukirchen. 

In England it is enough to mention such names as 
Hill & Sons ; Duncan of Glasgow ; the Chanots, London 
and Manchester; the late Furber, London; in Paris, 
Bernardel, Silvestre, Germain, Audinot, and Chardon; 
in Vienna, Zach, Bittner, Lembok, Voigt, Guttermann, 
Kampfler; in Munich, Sprenger; in Frankfort-on- 
Maine, Lenk; in Breslau, Liebich; in Brussels, Darche; 
in Lille, Hel ; in Milan, Marchetti ; in Turin, Bros. 
Guadagnini ; in Cremona, Ceruti ; and for further 
general information the reader may consult the toler- 
ably exhaustive catalogue index of makers at the end 
of this volume, for the bulk of which I am indebted 


to the studious and admirable labours of Miss Stainer. 
Her booklet is entitled " Violin Makers," and it forms 
one of the music primers of an educational series 
issued by Novello & Co. 


In old days Mittenwald, quaintest of Bavarian 
towns, with its frescoed houses and its picturesque 
river-side, for it is on the banks of the dear Isar, over- 
shadowed by the Wetterstein and Kurwandel mountains, 
was a town of considerable importance from very early 
days as the halting-place for the Romans on their way 
to the Danube. 

It long retained its peculiar caravanserai character, 
which resulted in the establishment of the handy mart 
or Mittenwald fair, for which in more recent times the 
place was chiefly famous. After the removal of the 
fair to Bozen, the importance of Mittenwald began to 
decline ; trade and commerce suddenly seemed to have 
made unto themselves wings, until one Matthias Klotz, 
who in his boyhood is said to have been apprenticed 
to no less a person than the great Nicolas Amati, 
settled at Mittenwald, and wrote up outside his house : 
"Matthias Klotz, Geigen Macher, im jahr 1684." The 
prime hazel and maple, to be found in the Wetterstein 
hills, is of splendid quality, and the woods, then close 
up to the town, were full of old trees. 

Thither, before the days of Matthias, was wont to 
come a dreamy, ill-regulated sort of person, who excited 


the curiosity, and perhaps ridicule, of the villagers by 
tapping their trees with a hammer and then putting 
his ear close to the wood to hear the sound. 

They thought he was mad, and he did go mad from 
worry and want, but the sanest thing he ever did was 
to tap those trees and listen to the sound. 

His name was Jacob Stainer. 

Matthias Klotz was only nineteen when he came to 
Mitten wald, but by this time the Mitten walders, who 
had heard how the eccentric tramp with the hammer 
had gone back to Absam and made the place famous 
by his fiddles, were prepared to receive the young 
workman with favour and hospitality, for they hoped 
he might do something of the kind for Mittenwald. 

They were not mistaken. One year before Klotz 
arrived at Mittenwald, Stainer had died incoherent 
and insane at Absam, and now that the greatest of 
German makers was dead, Mittenwald was soon des- 
tined to become noted in its turn for its fiddles. 

It is generally affirmed that Klotz was a pupil of 
Stainer. Certainly his relations with Nicolas Amati 
are not very well defined. The probabilities are that 
he was a pupil of both in the sense of being familiar 
with their work. The fact that his violins are some- 
times mistaken for Stainer, points to the strong Absam 
influence which was upon him it could hardly be 
otherwise whilst the tendency noticeable in the fiddles 
of his son Sebastian, who certainly did visit Cremona, 
to bring down the model flatter than was fashionable 
at this time, indicates that the firm at all events 


reflected the later Amati model of Nicolas, who died 
the very year Klotz came to Mittenwald. 

Had Matthias or Sebastian Klotz attended to the 
methods either of Stainer or Amati more carefully, 
they would have observed that wood cut in spring with 
the sap in it was not calculated to last like the drier 
autumn timber. Whether from haste or ignorance, 
the Klotz wood, especially that used by Matthias and 
Sebastian, is sometimes found to be worm-eaten, but 
Sebastian's fiddles are much esteemed. His brothers, 
George and Egidius, and his nephew, Joseph, son of 
Egidius, all made fiddles of the same type varnish 
running from yellow to brown, and laid on rather 
more lavishly than was the habit of Matthias, founder 
of the firm. 

The Mittenwald industry, although now less prolific 
than that of Markneukirchen, preceded it in point of 
time, and undoubtedly it was through Bavarian Mitten- 
wald that the Cremona influence reached Saxony. 

Master Reiter, whose teacher was Johan Vauchel of 
Wurzburg, is now the most prominent Mittenwald 
maker, and Herr Neuner, who was a pupil of Vuillaume, 
directs the school and factory. The school instructs 
about twenty boys, and is under Government. 

Out of eighteen hundred Mittenwalders, three hun- 
dred are fiddle-makers. 

The place provides from fifteen to twenty thousand 
instruments per annum, including zithers and guitars. 
I will not say that Herr Reiter, who is an artist versed 
in the old secrets and the old enthusiasms, is personally 


responsible for the " trade fiddles " that annually pour 
from the Mittenwald workshops. He himself has 
made comparatively few fiddles, but he supervises 
them all, and remarked to a visitor the other day, 
" I, Master Keiter, never let one go out of my hands 
that has not been thoroughly tested, and I have sent 
out into the world, to Eussia, to America, Athens, 
and where not, some two hundred violins and twenty- 
five 'cellos, besides having repaired some four hundred 


Quiet resting-places, secluded valleys of the Tyrol, 
mountains of Saxony! Mittenwald, Markneukirchen, 
Mirecourt ; sleepy Italian towns ! Brescia, Cremona, 
once provincial villages like Mirecourt, far from the stir 
of mighty cities ! such retreats seem to have been ever 
favourable to the development of violin manufacture. 
Something, too, of simple and almost naive religious 
sentiment has entered into the production of the earlier 
violins, most of which were, after all, chiefly intended 
for the sanctuary, Catholic or Protestant. 

The arts and craftsbook of the Worshipful Guild 
of Violin -makers of Markneukirchen, 1677 to 1772, has 
lately been unearthed and translated by the many- 
sided and indefatigable Heron Allen, and it throws a 
kind of sudden flashlight upon the origin of an indus- 
trial centre which has since become one of the most 
famous emporiums of violins "made in Germany." 



Here we read how a mere handful of masters and 
workmen went out from kith and kin into a wilderness 
some would say a paradise for the sake of worship- 
ping God in their own way that is to say, the new 
reformed Lutheran way. They settled, to the number 
of sixty-six, ahout the year 1627, at the retired and 
mountainous village of Markneukirchen. The old 
book which records their uneventful annals begins 
characteristically enough with, "In the name of the 
Holy Trinity, Amen " ; and then follow the names of 
twelve families, the principals being Beicher, Hans 
George, Polles, Gaspar, Schonfeldes, and Gaspar Hopf ; 
and from this modest nucleus, emigrants, chiefly from 
Graslitz, grew the famous Guild, which by-and-by was 
responsible for scattering abroad violins innumerable, 
labelled with every known name, and of quality good, 
bad, and indifferent ; for it is a notable peculiarity of 
the Markneukirchen makers that, whilst they were 
compelled by the rules of the Guild to produce diploma 
instruments and others of recognised quality, the cost 
of production has got down as low as about four shil- 
lings, and a very playable instrument, labelled Stradi- 
vari, is actually sold for a sum not much above that 
astonishing cost price. 

Many of these workers were all-round men, and did 
not confine themselves to fiddle-making. Thus, Carl 
Frederick Jacob was carpenter, locksmith, and general 
instrument maker; one Andrea Gher, 1587, was a 
schoolmaster; whilst Gasper Reichel was a barber. 
Gottfried Pitz was admitted to the Guild on easy 


terms, because he had served his country as a cavalry 

The master-workers were mostly people of some sub- 
stance. They had to pay a tax of one florin on being 
admitted to mastership ; but sons of a master were 
admitted on a reduced fee of five florins. 

Most of the masters were expected to have a decent 
house, with a room large enough to entertain the Guild 
with their wives at a banquet on their installation. 
As this cost some money there were various ways of 
lightening the burden when the candidate happened to 
be a desirable addition to the Guild he was allowed 
to pay in instalments, or part was remitted by favour. 
A popular means of effecting economy was to propose 
to marry the daughter of a master ; that at least staved 
off payment. The apprentices often got in cheap that 

Hans Adam Narlitzer, who "intended" to marry a 
master's daughter, was admitted on reduced terms, on 
the understanding that, if the match did not come off, 
he was to pay up in full. 

One Kretchman also "intended" to marry the 
youngest daughter of Hans Martin Schonf eldes ; also 
Johann Christian Envel, in 1761, had "half a mind" 
to marry the youngest daughter of Keichel, and was 
admitted for ten thalers; but in case he could not 
make up his mind to marry the girl, or any other 
master's daughter, he would have to pay thirty-one 
thalers. In no case is it recorded that any of these 
gentlemen failed to marry as per contract ; the masters' 


daughters probably took very good care of that, or 
would have sufficient influence to suppress the fact of 
their rejection. 

With the spread of the Reformed opinions, there at 
first arose a certain demand for violins in the new 
churches; but the rigid Lutherans soon smelled the 
odour of abuse and reversion to Romanism, and dis- 
couraged any approach to ornate services, or an over- 
supply of instrumental accompaniment. A decree that 
the violins used in Church should be reduced in num- 
bers naturally spread consternation throughout the 
little country town ; but the growing demand for 
etringed instruments of good quality for secular bands 
soon counteracted the effect of sectarian bigotry and 
clerical parsimony; and when one Joseph Haydn, 
bandmaster to Prince Esterhazy in Vienna, practically 
founded the modern orchestra with its symphony, and 
created the modern oratorio and quartet, the demand 
for violins and basses led to a prodigious develop- 
ment of the Markneukirchen industry; and as the 
masters not only had ready access to the best Cremo- 
nese models, but were surrounded by some of the finest 
maple timber in the world, felled in forests full of seasoned 
trees hundreds of years old, the fame of the Markneu- 
kirchen makers soon spread throughout Europe. 

At Mittenwald a similar community flourished, and 
the crop of German instruments made, and still made, 
by these enterprising artificers have flooded all the 
orchestras of the world, providing them with samples 
of every maker, from Gaspar and Maggini to Stradi- 


vari, the Guarneri, Bergonzi, and Guadagniui. The 
Mittenwald makers owed their inspiration chiefly to 
Egidius Klotz, pupil of the great Stainer. They were 
as famous for their fine hazel-fir timber as the Markneu- 
kircheners were for their maple: it was also through 
the Mittenwaldera that the Crenioiia methods filtered 
readily into the more northern region Markneu- 
kirchen, Prague, Nuremburg, Wurzburg, and Franken. 

The increased demand for instruments resulted 
necessarily in a tendency to deterioration, which did 
not escape the attention of the Guild, and rigid rules 
were drawn up, called "Beneficent Mandates for the 
Suppression of Abuses." 

Every master had to prove himself equal to produc- 
ing one masterpiece as a sample of his skill, though it 
was freely admitted that a cheap demand involved a 
cheap type of instrument, which could not be expected 
to rival the diploma standard of tone and finish. 

The quaint record of the Markneukirchen arts and 
craftsbook ends with the year 1772, and with the words 
"Deo Gloria" Since that date the names of Eeichel, 
Schuster, and Paulus have all been en evidence at vari- 
ous European Exhibitions as medallists and exhibitors 
of distinction; but, after a great fire in 1840, a good 
many families left the town, and thus the old centre 
became like a flower that had overblown itself, and 
began to obey the inevitable law by which a mature 
centre distributes itself gradually, losing as it were its 
own central wealth in its circumference, as the seeds of 
the dandelion get blown abroad over all lands. 



notion that the more a fiddle is knocked about 
the better it is, is similar to the theory that the more 
you knock about a horse the better he goes. 

A good horse will take a great deal of spoiling, and 
so will a good fiddle. Your well-bred beast, even 
when broken down, if you turn him out to grass and 
attend to his ailments, will recover marvellously, and 
so will a violin, if you glue him up, readjust his nervous 
system, keep him dry, and coax him a bit. 

The delusion that a fiddle is all the better for being 
maltreated is due to this : Many people observe that 
their old, battered, disorganised fiddles, which went 
into the skilful repairer's hands sounding like tin 
kettles, come out with the true Cremona timbre ; but 
that, my deluded friend, is not in consequence, but in 
spite of the knocking about to which your favourites 
have been exposed. 

The fiddle-doctor has attended to your violin's 
internal economy, and gently healed its bruises, killed 
the wolf or fiddle stomach-ache from which it was 
suffering, glued tight the rattling back, ribs, belly, fixed 
the loose sound-bar, and readjusted your Cremona's 


very soul (I'dme du molori), which is the sound-post 
and so it fares well ; but remember, 'tis better to keep 
a fiddle in repair and use than allow it to get out of 
both, and go a mere wreck to the workshop. 

I am not forgetting, when I say "use," that the in- 
cessant and continued playing upon an instrument is 
said to result in its getting what Joachim calls " played 
out," and that collectors have been great benefactors 
by withdrawing choice instruments from wear and tear, 
giving them thus long periods of suspended animation ; 
but, as a general rule, so long as a violin lasts and 
how long it will last is still a vexed question fair 
wear and tear and attention is just as good for a fiddle 
as work, exercise, and cleanly habits are good for man 
and beast. 

Neglect is never good ; knocking about is never good ! 

Lay it to your heart, young player ! 

What is that precious thing committed to your 
care? You have brought it home from the auction- 
room your Amati. There was a conspiracy to keep 
down the bidding. An influential dealer wanted to 
buy it cheap, having already half sold it in advance 
for twice as much as he meant to give; he went up 
to 40 at the auction and stopped, but you were the 
dark horse and made another bid; he winked at the 
auctioneer, supposing it to be a bogus bid; the man 
with the hammer paused and looked at the dealer, who 
shook his head; for once the dealer had been too 
clever and lost his Arnati for a 5 nota It wa,s 
knocked down to you, 


You get it home; there is something wrong about 
it; the timbre of the A string is unequal sweet, but 
too weak it has a crack in one rib. 

You don't expect a trumpet-sound like that of a 
Joseph, or quite the bell-like ring of a Strad, but you 
do mean to have a quality like the ripple of water 
a round, soft, and incomparably sensitive and intime 
tone, not to be surpassed by Strad and never reached 
by Stainer. 

Of course your early Nicolo has got to be over- 
hauled. He has got a crack perhaps more than one. 
Why, he is already more than two hundred years old, 
and may have a mark of the young Stradivari's chisel 
about him. Of what attention is he not worthy! 
Take him to a subtle violin medicine-man, who will at 
a glance see what he has got to deal with, and will sit 
down before him and think ! 

He will then take him up, handle him, tap him, pull 
him to pieces with excessive care and reflection. When 
you get him back, you may still be not quite satisfied, 
but wait. Your treatment has to begin where the 
fiddle-doctor's ends. 

The convalescent home comes after the hospital 
your house is the convalescent home. 

The glue must dry; the changed sound-post must 
grow to the newly-directed strain and tension of the 
vibrating boards ; the refixed flanks must learn to deal 
with the air column, and the filled-up crack, by con- 
stantly thrilling with the rest, must have time to forget 
that it ever was a crack ! 


Be not impatient. Play upon it gently at first, and 
by-and-by draw out its tone; lay it aside and watch 
that no harm comes to it ; let it lie open, with a soft 
silken wrapper on the strings near, not too near the 
fire ; it must not get hot, but, like good claret, just the 
temperature of a comfortably warm room. 

Think of it in winter as you would think of your 
pet canary; don't let it get chilled at night; let it be 
in your own bedroom, or wherever there is an atmos- 
phere and temperature fit for a well-cared-for " human." 

'Tis half human ; 'tis caressed by your hand ; it lies 
close to your cheek ; 'tis breathed on by you when you 
press it, in moments of rare inspiration and musical 
trance, between your chin and your left breast, where 
its vibrating back actually feds the pulses of your own 
heart. The waves of sound that you generate from it 
are saturated with the magnetism of your touch ; the 
trembling pressure of your fingers comes from the 
shaking of your own life-blood as it beats in the 
mysterious valves of the heart, and seems to mingle 
with those more than atmospheric, those psychic waves 
which travel out upon the air in a flow of magic sound 
conveying your inmost self to the inmost selves of 
others ! 

So this half-human thing must live with you and be 
cared for by and fare with you, and be kept in good 

See that no clot of dirt be in its case, no speck of 
rosin to vex and fret the smooth amber-coloured back. 
Take it out lovingly ; polish it with soft handkerchief j 


keep it shining wherever the varnish still shows up, 
and scrupulously clean elsewhere. 

The vile notion that a coat of rosin does good, and 
may be left with advantage like a festering mass on 
the belly underneath the strings, is a most grievous 
delusion ! 

Why suffer the corrosion of the varnish with a foreign 
substance to remain there more than on any other 
part of the wood? 

Eosin is for the strings, not for the belly, and the 
strings are for friction, and are intended to be scraped 
through and worn out and replaced, but the belly is 
for vibration and is never intended to wear out. 

Your rosin is life to the strings, enabling them to 
speak, but 'tis death to the wood, stifling its pores and 
striking it dumb ! ,.- 

Never touch your violin with oil, or spirit, or colour- 
ing. Only a skilled repairer can venture to do that, 
and even he will not always be wise. 

I have seen really good old instruments too much 
cleaned or daubed over ruthlessly with muddy brown 
varnish, much, as Euskin says, he saw men with knives 
and mops of paint at Venice scraping away and splash- 
ing over with raw blue the vast old faded skies of 
Paul Veronese ! 

A spick and span mania seizes at times upon re- 
storers of all schools. 

A relative of mine had a Spagnoletti restored to him 
by a cleaner, but so repainted as to be worthless. 

Have not half the cathedrals in the Ian4 been dis- 


by whitewash, starched and bleached just like 
so much dirty linen, and the old frescoes obliterated 
like so many disfiguring stains ; and even now, in these 
more enlightened days, how many old carvings have 
been replaced by modern routine -work sculpture, 
whilst the walls, facade, and floor of grand old St 
Mark's at Venice have been smeared over with Sal- 
viati's modern mosaic. Thus have I seen a Maggini 
botched and browned over so completely with bad 
German varnish as to leave only faint traces here and 
there of the original coating. 

Never in the matter of varnish dare to replace 
what time has stolen; that loss of old varnish is a 
tribute paid not ungrudgingly to " the Vandal years," 
who have spared the life and been unable materially 
to injure the fabric of the rare old instrument. Above 
all, thou favoured guardian of a Cremona, never let 
it get near damp, or suffer from any other mouldering 
or corrosive influence. 

A friend of mine, finding that the worm had got 
into his violin case, which contained a Guadagnini, 
proceeded to saturate his case with benzoin, and before 
it was properly dry replaced the precious instrument, 
with the result that the old varnish was brought up 
in blisters all over the back, which is now one crinkled 
mass, as rough to the touch as a nutmeg-grater. The 
varnish was completely ruined, and what is worse, the 
violin has never sounded like itself since ; a clear proof 
to my mind that the varnish affects the tone, or at 
least that damaged varnish impairs ik 


It is not at all an uncommon thing to find a violin, 
which has been left unplayed upon for gome months, 
sulky ,when first taken out. 

Do not be rash or fidget with the bridge or sound- 
post. Warm the fiddle up gently ; rub it lightly with 
all due care, and play on it without taking any notice 
of its temper; go on for a couple of hours; you will 
find, to your surprise, that it has recovered all its own 
sweetness and charm, and will be ready to charm you 
with the delightful sensitiveness of its response. All 
that was really wanted was for the temporarily disused 
channels of vibration to be again filled with sound 
the pores the desiccated hollows to be once more 
shaken up in the old way. The instrument has really 
gone to sleep some of its nerve currents have got 
sluggish that is, the desiccated powder -molecules have 
stuck in the pores and must be set rolling again. But, 
like one just awakened, the fiddle takes a little time 
to be " all there," as the idiom runs. 

Something similar may be observed in a large hall. 
When, after the atmosphere has been quiescent for 
some time, speaking first begins, the speaker will not 
be heard well ; the atmosphere is stiff, and only when 
the whole of it has been set in vibration and that 
takes a little time does it become sensitive and 
sufficiently elastic to be capable of transmitting the 
slightest inflections of sound. 

There is, again, an electric as well as an atmospheric 
and molecular state of the air and all other vibratory 
substances, but this is a side of acoustics extremely 


little understood, and can only be dealt; with empiri- 
cally by speakers, singers, players, and especially 
handlers of violins, who will instinctively make use of 
some laws which they do not understand, and which 
indeed do not yet seem to have been correctly 

I feel that something ought to be said about the 
position of the sound-post, though frankly I would 
rather not say anything. 

Whatever advice one gives is certain to be wrongly 
and mischievously applied. 

Technically, the sound-post should be a little behind 
the right foot of the bridge, if you look from head to 
neck, which is of course the left foot if you look from 
neck to head. It ought also to be straight if it is 
aslant unless the surface of the ends be cut on a slope. 
Of course it clings but partially to back and belly, 
whose throbs it is intended to blend ; a little too near 
the bridge will often produce a light hard tone; a 
little too far will tend to a loose, muffled, or tubby 
quality; a little to the right will brighten the right 
string at the expense of the left, and vice versd. Get 
it exactly in the fit place, and you attain the utmost 
sensibility and equal sonority of which your violin is 
capable. But so capricious are the vibrational laws, 
and so subtle are the peculiarities of each violin's 
nervous system, that the position which at first has 
failed to yield good results will ultimately be found 
to have won its way to the heart of your violin, the 
instrument adjusting itself to what waa at first an 


uncongenial treatment of its nerves, until the nerves 
learn to sympathise, and even rejoice, in special direc- 
tions of pressure and tension induced by the sound- 
post. When this happens, better let well alone and 
don't attend to outside advice of experts. 

It is seldom wise to encourage an amateur, or any 
but a skilful hand, to trifle with the position of the 
sound-post. If it must be moved or has fallen down, 
why then by all means take the advice of an expert; 
go to the doctor. 

The same sort of advice may be given about the 
position of the bridge. Granted that you have a 
bridge which suits your instrument (and the importance 
of this I have elsewhere dwelt upon), then consider 
whether 'tis worth while to move your bridge at all. 
The two little side slits in the // indicate approxi- 
mately the position of the bridge; let a violin-doctor 
determine the right height, which, remember, must be 
modified according to its position, and the slope and 
elevation of the finger-board. But here again there is 
a vague and subtle margin for readjustment; the im- 
portance of the bridge's position is of course directly 
related to the whereabouts of the sound-post, as the 
bridge is a prime factor in dealing first with the 
vibrations transmitted by the sound-post from belly 
to back. 

There are violins which gain brilliancy by the bridge 
leaning a little forward, but this is of course dangerous, 
as a little more, and down comes the bridge. The theory 
of course is for the feet of the bridge to grip equally at 


all points the surface of the belly flat and close, and 
with equal pressure. Now, if the bridge leans forward, 
the grip of the back part of the feet is slightly lifted, 
whilst the pressure of the front part is accentuated, and 
if it leans backwards, precisely the reverse takes place. 
Yet so capricious are fiddles, that some do not seem 
to like to have their bridges quite straight, and so they 
have got to be humoured. 

Without grave cause I should advise not meddling 
with bridge or sound-post after they have been re- 
adjusted by a good repairer. He may not have been 
quite right; he may not have had the time or patience 
to deal with your malade imaginaire of a fiddle for 
amongst fiddles as amongst people, there are malades 
imaginaires which baffle the profession but your fiddle- 
doctor will be probably more right than you fussy, 
irritable, discontented, inexperienced amateur, and, if 
you leave off tampering with the works, the fiddle will 
very probably adjust itself and get all right. 

Then of course you must remember that whenever 
you touch the bridge you touch the elevation of the 
strings above finger-board. Put bridge back, you slacken 
the touch for the player by bringing the strings close 
down on the finger-board ; put it forward or tilt it, and 
you lighten the touch ; make it harder for the fingers 
by lifting the strings higher from the finger-board. 

And now a word about your finger-board. This is 
generally made of ebony ; the old masters used various 
brownish woods, choosing, of course, the harder ones, 
which they often inlaid beautifully. Sometimes even 


they used ivory ; you may perhaps have noticed that 
on some violins you have a difficulty in stopping fifths, 
or indeed any chords, in tune. This, unless you are a 
mere blunderer, comes from the state of your finger- 
board. You may not have noticed it, but you will 
observe that the strings, by constantly being squeezed 
by the fingers against the smoothly-arched surface of 
the ebony, have worn channels in the wood, but 
channels of unequal depths; the consequence is that 
the same pressure, forcing two strings down on un- 
equally raised surfaces, fails to produce that relatively 
equal pressure necessary for producing your true fifth ; 
the string also being sunk, it does not get the full 
benefit of the finger's pressure, as the shock of impact 
will be broken by the higher level of the finger-board 
on either side of the sunken string. 

In this way the tone quality as well as the intona- 
tion suffers from what so constantly eludes observation 
a worn finger-board. 

Of course a new finger-board, or the restoration of 
an old one, is a very easy matter, and can in no way 
affect, except for the better, any violin. 

It may safely be said that no violin now in use has 
either its original finger-board or, for the matter of 
that, its original neck. Strings of very ill-assorted 
thickness are also responsible for imperfect fifths. 

The management of the pegs sometimes presents 
difficulties to the novice. Kosewood, ivory, and box- 
wood have been tried, but ebony seems to be the 
favourite, though many incline, as I do personally, to 


rosewood, which is less dense, and thus, in contact with 
the maple-head (which is again less dense in fibre than 
the rosewood), offers a less hard and violent contrast 
than does the iron ebony to the porous maple. 

But the all-essential thing is for the pegs to be nicely 
fitted, and it is a vile practice to rosin the pegs to make 
them stiffer, or to rub them with lead-pencil or whiten- 
ing to make them turn more easily. 

If your peg sticks, it is either because it does not fit 
the hole, is not smooth, or because you have rammed 
it in too far in order to resist the pull of a string, pro- 
bably coiled round and round the pegs in a tangled, 
twisted mess. 

There never should be a need for this over-ramming 
in of the screw, nor would there be if, when you pulled 
up your new string to pitch, you immediately let it 
down, drew the stretched part tight, and then screwed 
up again, when you would find, instead of ever so many 
coils, you had reduced the number to one or two, which 
would at once lift the strain from your screw, and make 
it needless for you to force it in till it stuck and almost 
refused to move at all. 

You should be able, when your fiddle is at your chin, 
to nip the peghead between the first and third joint of 
your forefinger, and adjust the pitch to a nicety and in 
a moment ; but then the resistance of the screw must 
be so nicely balanced with the tension of the string as 
to allow of its moving easily when gripped, and keeping 
in its exact place when left. 

It is a very strange thing that, whilst all sorts of 



mechanical contrivances for moving violin screws have 
been suggested, and even tried and adopted for guitars 
and double basses, the violin retains its simple and 
primitive screw ; nor would any one who lays claim to 
a decent position in the trade dream of advising a de- 
parture in this, or indeed in any other respect from the 
custom of the Cremona school and its successors. 

Concerning the stringing of your violin, beyond the 
hints I have given with regard to the accumulation of 
evils round the peg, there is not very much to be said. 

The quality, manufacture, preservation, and price of 
strings has already been dealt with; and here, as in 
everything connected with violins, there must be tine 
and sympathetic adaptation of strings both to the 
performer and to his instrument. 

A young girl will naturally incline to thinner strings 
than a strong man, just as she will usually prefer a 
lower bridge, which will reduce the resistance because 
of the reduced distance between the strings and the 

Some players will prefer a thick first or third string, 
according to the quality of tone they are able to elicit; 
some a smooth or rather thin patent fourth in pre- 
ference to the usual more roughly-coiled and thicker 
G string, which, however, is preferable for orchestral 
playing ; but, as a rule, buy your strings according to 
gauge, if you can't trust your eye, in a good shop, and 
you will not be disappointed. 

Eemember, as I have previously intimated, that any 
great inequality in the relative thickness of your strings 


may be quite as much responsible for your imperfect 
fifths as an old channelled finger-board. Use plenty 
of rosin, and let the string be seasoned with it right 
up to the bridge, but not much, if at all, below the 
top of the finger-board. The rosin must be well 
rubbed in before you attempt solo work, as any excess 
of what I may call raw undigested powder will produce 
a most vile screeching. 

The tone of a fine violinist never reminds you of the 
cat-gut and rosin. In the pure disembodied tone of 
Piatti, Joachim, or Sarasate we entirely lose the sense 
of all beggarly elements ; they have suffered a change 
into " something rare and strange." 

The rough-and-ready way of testing false strings by 
setting them in vibration, holding by each end, and 
twitching till the double line is seen, and if a third line 
appears condemning the string as false, ia a method 
often, not always, reliable. You can never be quite 
sure till you have put the string on. If false, you may 
get a true length out of it by trying another part ; but, 
as a rule, if one length of a string is false, it is bad all 
through. A player, especially a soloist, should always 
have a length or two of stretched and tested firsts in 
his case, or, better still, in his waistcoat pocket, before 
he goes on the platform, unless he can ensure the pres- 
ence of a second reliable instrument at hand in case of 
a sudden breakage. 

Strings have every kind of vice short of downright 
falseness. You need not put up with wheezy or 
dull, or any sort of impure vibration, and beware of 


laying the blame on the violin when the string is the 

Of course, if the sound-bar or the back or belly of 
the violin is loose, or the sound-bar askew, that will 
account for a good deal. By tapping all round the 
front and the back, just where these join the ribs, you 
can easily discover by a certain jar or rattle whether 
and where something is loose ; it may be one of the 
blocks or linings. 

Test the fiddle and you may acquit the strings; 
test the strings and you may acquit the fiddle. 

You may sometimes experience a difficulty in playing 
the A or D string without striking the E or G; this 
may be due to your own clumsiness, but it may also be 
due to the curve of your bridge being too flat, or some- 
one or more of the strings having eaten too deeply into 
the bridge. 

If your hand perspire much and all hands perspire 
your strings, especially your E string, will rag out. 
It is difficult to say exactly at what stage in the ragging 
process it is advisable to change your string. It is 
strange, but true, that the tone of an old ragged string 
is not materially impaired. I have sometimes fancied 
that such thorough tough and seasoned strings are 
even improved in spite of age and infirmity. Certain 
it is that the smoothest string will go without warning, 
and the raggedest will sometimes hang on down to a 
mere thread. 

Paganini perspired frightfully, so much so that he 
always carried a dry shirt in his violin case, and a gentle- 


man noticed that when he opened his case to take out 
his violin for a public solo, his strings were in rags. 

I have sometimes observed that, oddly enough, a 
second or third string is less durable after it has ragged 
than a first; the wearing of the threads which compose 
the thick strings seems less hard and tight than those 
of the thin chanterelle, or the resultant material is 
softer and gets soaked and cheesy, and like cheese is 
readily cut through by the nails. 

Lastly, the amateurish and falsely-assumed econo- 
mical habit of slackening all the strings each time the 
violin is replaced in its case is a delusion and a snare ; 
it only worries your instrument's nervous system. 

Slacken your low, not your strings. 

The violin gets accustomed to the normal strain, and 
adjusts itself to it, and resents being deprived of its 
due tension as much as an athlete would resent his 
dumb-bells being removed. 

The strings are quite as likely to break by being 
constantly fidgeted up and down, and the violin is 
much more likely to get demoralised by the wearing 
action and reaction of a varying strain, than if you 
let it alone with all its strings at their accustomed 



I HAVE come to the conclusion, " after long years," that 
there are three things about which your averagely 
honest man has no conscience whatever the first is a 
horse, the second is an umbrella, and the last, but not 
least, is a fiddle. 

He will buy from some needy ignoramus a fiddle 
worth 100 for a 5' note, if he can. He will sell a 
fiddle which cost him 5 for 100, if he can. Truly, 
the caveat emptor of the ancient Romans covers a 
multitude of sins. 

On the other hand, the extreme ignorance of many 
persons who have violins to sell offers singular tempta- 
tions to dealers, who are a class of people constitu- 
tionally on the make. 

In bygone days, people who did not play the violin 
used to be criminally careless about the instruments 
that happened to be in their possession. Cremonas 
might lie for years in damp attics, or hung up in dis- 
used cupboards on rusty nails, or away in the dust of 
ages on the top of old beds and cabinets. Even if the 
fiddle was ultimately stolen borrowed and not re- 



turned it was thought hardly worth a serious inquiry ; 
it "was all to pieces" or "only an old fiddle"; and, 
indeed, I have before now seen such with the belly off 
converted into serviceable dustpans. 

Credulity has succeeded to ignorance, and now any 
one who has any sort of shabby-looking fiddle fancies 
he has got a rare Cremona ! 

He will advertise it unblushingly in the halfpenny 
papers, bring it gravely to supposed judges, and make 
a favour of even showing it to a dealer. 

Nothing will shake the confidence of these simple 
folk in their spurious wares; they wfll bring out a 
common brown German dated Maggini, and you point 
out that Maggini never dated his instruments; they 
suppose you to be envious. Or they show you a Stainer 
rashly dated fifty years after that maker's death (such 
an one was lately brought to me), with a label so recent 
that you wonder at the brazen fraud. As to the good 
and tolerably deceptive French copies of Strad, their 
name is legion, and for a moment a person fairly con- 
versant with fiddles may be deceived by such a subtle 
and withal honest copyist as Lupot, but to the eye of 
the experienced dealer the varnish is quite enough. The 
varnish that chips off instead of rubbing away, thus 
leaving the raw wood more exposed than permeated, is 
not Cremona varnish. 

Of course as to the new labels in modern type I have 
nothing to say. No one but a complete fool in fiddles 
could be taken in by them. 

Still, when all gross cases are put aside, there is an 


excusable margin left for honest error, especially when 
personal interest is on the side of error. 

I have very little doubt that my old friend, the late 
Mr Cox, well known as an acute picture dealer, really 
believed in a certain violin which he called the Bed 
Knight. He bought it at the great sale of Gillott's 
fiddles as a rare Joseph Guarnerius. 

I would never tell the old man to his face that/ his 
Joseph was a very plausible red Landolpho copy of 
Joseph, and I was even weak enough to allow it to lie 
on the table of the Eoyal Institution side by side with 
the "Dolphin," Enthoven's Maggini, the Emperor of 
Eussia's Strad, a genuine Nicolas, a Joseph and a Jacob 
Stainer ; in short, the Eed Knight lay by favour for one 
evening in company with some twenty gems of world- 
wide reputation. 

In the course of my lecture, to please my old friend, 
I took up the Eed Knight, remarking, "Here is a 
fine violin labelled Joseph Guarnerius, once the pro- 
perty of Mr Gillott, now owned by Mr Cox." I said 
no more. 

A few weeks afterwards the Eed Knight was sold for 
300, partly on the strength of my having vouched for 
it at the Eoyal Institution. 

Meanwhile the Jupiter of judges,, William Ebsworth 
Hill, had been consulted by the purchaser, who, on 
finding that he had only got hold of a Landolpho, 
wanted his money back. 

I think they would have gone to law if they could 
have counted on me as a witness; but when I was 


threatened with a subpoena, I replied, " I would cer- 
tainly go into the box, but should have utterly to 
deny that I had vouched for the genuineness of the 
Red Knight or expressed any opinion whatever about 
it except that it was ' a good fiddle labelled Guarnerius/ 
worth perhaps 60 but not 300." 

The upshot was that I was not subpoenaed. Mr 
Cox refunded the money and the buyer restored the 

No one doubts but what Mr Gillott, of steel-pen 
celebrity, did obtain, chiefly through Charles Reade of 
" Never Too Late to Mend " fame, a great many very 
tine fiddles, but I am afraid that Mr C. Reade was also 
responsible for some comparative rubbish like the Red 
Knight. Certainly I find a very dubious Strad tenor 
(one of Gillott's) labelled 140 in the South Kensington 
collection. As to this particular collector's specimen, 
if I grant him his belly and his sound-holes, it is about 
all that I can do for Strad never threw that scroll 
nor touched with plane or chisel that back and ribs. 

I brought home from Australia a so-called Peter 
Guarnerius really an excellent violin but it was no 
more a Guarnerius than a Strad, and was sold far 
under its value as a Camillo Camilli, which it probably 
was. But what will you ? After all, a fiddle at any 
given time is worth what it will fetch. 

The most impudent fraud or the most blatant 
delusion which has ever come under my notice was 
the so-called Maggini exhibited by Mr J. W. Joyce 
(110, South Kensington Exhibition, 1872). 


It was made by Bernhardt Fendt, and I gave in 
the Pall Mall Gazette of the period its history and 
the names of its chief owners ; but it was not removed, 
neither was the Amati tenor (No. 147), labelled and 
hung as Maggini, ever re-labelled, nor was a Klotz 
fiddle which bore a Stainer label ever corrected. 

The only fraud I succeeded in dislodging was a 
spurious Bergonzi also sent up by Mr J. W. Joyce 
which after my attack on the South Kensington col- 
lection of 1872 disappeared. 

The poor thing, no worse than the Bernhardt Fendt 
which brazened it out like a false claimant, was merely 
made a scapegoat of. 

These be among the humours of your loan collections ! 

But we must be indulgent. Some mistakes are 
sure to be made, but it is only fair . to remember 
that the fiddle world is vastly indebted to these grand 
fiddle exhibitions all the same. The exhibition of 
1885 at South Kensington was not one whit less impor- 
tant than the 1872 show. 

The 1885 specimens were more discreetly selected 
than those of 1872. They had the advantage of being 
largely controlled by Mr Hill. 

Besides the usual supply of leading Italian makers, 
the English school was remarkably well represented. 
There was found a capital Ford, a maker who has not 
received due credit for his excellent work. A good 
Duke and Walmsley, and a yellow fiddle by Tobin, a 
man quite noticeable for the cut of his scrolls, which 
are always full of character. 


There was an interesting John Lott, richly varnished. 
A romantic interest must always attach itself to this 
fine maker on account of his early Bohemian life, 
recorded by Charles Reade in a memoir called "Jack 
of All Trades." 

Charles Reade, who knew Lott intimately, tells us 
how at one time he travelled through Europe with a 
menagerie and became famous as the keeper of a most 
clever but vicious elephant called Djek, who, after 
killing ever so many men, had to be demolished herself 
with a cannon, and was then cut up for elephant steaks 
to feed the town. 

It was only after the loss of Djek that John Lott 
came again to London and took up the fiddle trade, 
which he had learned in boyhood. 

Joseph Hill, Lockey Hill, and Banks, were also well 
seen at South Kensington in 1885. There was also a 
matchless Urquhart, very venerable Anno 1666 the 
date of the great fire of London, which happily spared it ! 

The Stradivarius case contained Mr Hill's interesting 
1732 Strad (now Ysaye's violin), which, although made 
so late in his life, was signed by the old man, who after 
1730, as a rule, had left off signing his instruments. 

A truly serio-comic chapter might be written on the 
huge prices given for frauds. A friend of mine gave 
200 forty years ago for a supposed Strad (which was 
only a Lupot) at a time when 40 was a long price 
for the clever Frenchman. 

A violin professor I know sold a very poor Strad 
the other day, but made a very good thing out of it. 


When the lady showed it me, I took a liberal view, 
and said that 300 would have been a long price. 
Her countenance fell. 

" Good gracious ! I gave 600 ! " 

" Keep it long enough, and anything by Strad will 
fetch that ; but probably not," I added, " in your life- 
time or mine." This was some years ago. 

On the other hand, bargains in Strads and Josephs, 
Bergonzis and Stainers, are still no doubt to be got, 
but only about as often as bargains in Raphaels, Eubens, 
Eembrandts, or Tintorets ; but amateurs of pictures 
and fiddles are mostly wrecked on school-pictures and 
school-fiddles, often getting fair money's worth, but not 
what they pay for. 

Betts purchased one of the finest Stradivari in the 
world for 20s. When John Lott opened itj in Vuillaume's 
presence, he found the original bass-bar. The bar so 
Charles Reade tells us was low and short, and quite 
incapable of bearing the strain of concert pitch, and 
John Lott replaced it with one stronger. The Betts 
Strad was sold to George Hart for 800 guineas a 
heavy price fifty years ago. 

Mr John Hart, father of George Hart, picked up a 
violoncello in Oxford Street for a sovereign or two. 
The timbre caught his ear as he passed three street- 
musicians violin, cornet, and 'cello. 

Lindley, the great player, came into his shop and 
bought a fine Forster 'cello for a round sum. This was 
the Oxford Street 'cello. 

The destiny of violins has ever been one full of ups 


and downs, and, like human beings, they have been 
literally kidnapped, as in the case of Spohr's, which 
was lifted from behind his travelling carriage; ship- 
wrecked, like the Peter and Paul, vide page 96; 
murdered by those Vandals who patch stray bits of 
slaughtered Oeinonas into modern fabrics, and sold 
for slaves, as in last century, to be scraped in dim 
churches or ancient orchestras, until found out to be 
royalties in disguise by the Chan6ts and Vuillaumes of 
the nineteenth century. 

One would suppose that the stealing of a first-class 
instrument would be next to impossible. Hardly a 
fiddle of mark now exists which is not known to one or 
other 01 the great dealers in Paris, London, or Berlin ; 
and whenever it changes hands, it is likely to come 
before them again for inspection and verification. Yet 
some of the famous Spanish Court Strads have vanished 
no one knows where, and another famous Strad from 
the Plowden Collection, whilst in possession of one of 
our diplomats at St Petersburg, disappeared, and has 
never since been traced. 

Many years ago I left a Vuillaume, labelled Albani, 
in a railway carriage when I got out to take refresh- 
ment. I was not gone five minutes, but in that five 
minutes my Vuillaume had gone. 

After the death of a well-known nobleman, a certain 
so-called Strad in an elaborate case, with finely-mounted 
bows, was submitted to Mr Hill for inspection. It 
was nothing but a common German fiddle; but Mr 
Hill told me he had no doubt that the original occu- 


pant of the noble case had been stolen. Probably 
many such thefts have been committed by dishonest 
servants. Nothing could be easier than to substitute 
one fiddle for another in houses and they are legion 
where people do not know one fiddle from another, and 
where fiddles lie unused and un visited in lofts and 
cupboards, I might almost say from generation to 
generation. No soloist who travels should fail to in- 
sure his treasure. Sarasate had a heavy insurance on 
his violin when he went to America. 

But worse than theft is mutilation. The chances 
are that what is stolen, unless it be stolen deliberately 
to cut up, will some day reappear intact; but the 
chances are small that a mutilated instrument will ever 
collect its disjecta membra. 

Still, as in the case of Tarisio's Spanish bass, that 
too is possible, just as the recovery of the Hercules 
Farnese statue, before alluded to, was possible. 

A well-known amateur whose Strad had been taken 
to pieces for repair and the pieces wrapped in bits of 
paper, on unfolding the fragments found the head 
missing. The loss seemed irreparable, but a day or 
two afterwards an old apple-woman picked it up in 
the gutter, and happened to take it to the very fiddle- 
shop charged with the repair of the Strad. That Strad 
head was worth just 2s. to the old woman ! 

Nothing is easier than the perpetration of a fraud 
by a clever copyist if he chooses to attempt it. In- 
credible as it may appear, Paganini was shown by 
Vuillaume two fiddles, one of which was his own and 


the other a counterfeit, and was quite unable at the 
moment to decide which was which. 

Chanot's copy of the Carlino or Kerlino 1454 viol, 
No. 14, South Kensington 1872 Exhibition, completely 
deceived me until I had the opportunity of handling 
both instruments at leisure. 

These frauds extend to bows. The Tourte and Dodd 
bows in existence that know not Dodd or Tourte are 

I should recommend my readers never to leave a 
valuable bow in their case when they send their violins 
for repair. 

I lost a good Dodd myself in that way. Fine bows 
are not safe even in the orchestra anteroom ; they get 
" changed." It seems so simple to some people, when 
a bow, a crush-hat, or an umbrella happens to be lying 
about, to mistake it for their own and leave theirs 
behind, especially if it is inferior in quality to the one 
they chance to catch up by mistake! As luck will 
have it, 'tis seldom a worse one that gets caught up ! 

A friend of mine happened to leave a fine Tourte 
bow in his case, and then he sent his fiddle for repairs 
to a smart dealer who shall be nameless here. When 
the case returned, it had a bow in it, but it was a copy, 
and a very good copy, of a Tourte. In this instance 
the dealer restored the original under pressure. 

In everything connected with a fiddle and a bow I 
say, Beware ! Beware ! Further, let me say to amateurs, 
not one in a thousand of you, even with practice and 
opportunity, is fit to judge of a violin ; you may easily 


know what suits you, aiid that no doubt for practical 
purposes is the essential. You can hardly know what 
is genuine. 

Over and above culture and wide observation and 
experience, a certain instinct is required, and few are they 
that have it. Why, my friend, if William Ebsworth 
Hill, from whose judgment there was no appeal, got 
" his eye out " when only for a few weeks he left off 
looking at fiddles, or distrusted his own judgment on 
certain days, as to my knowledge was the case for he 
was at once the most diffident and absolute of men 
what chance have you ? Why, none at all ! 

I will go further than this, and declare that half the 
violinists now before the public are no more judges 
of a genuine fiddle than my cook. A man may be 
a judge without being able to play, and a man may 
play divinely and not be a judge. At the same time 
Charles Eeade's opinion would have been even more 
valuable than it was had he played himself. He 
never would have written those foolish paragraphs 
about modern-made fiddles sounding as well as old 
Cremonas had he played himself. It is all the differ- 
ence between a man who looks at another man on 
horseback and one who has got to ride the horse 
himself ; the first may not see much difference in two 
horses, but the second soon finds it out ! 

Playing the fiddle won't make you a judge, but 
you will be a better judge if you can play the fiddle. 
I remember showing Eemenyi a very fine copy of Strad 
which had deceived many. He walked up and down 


my room playing upon it with delight, and pronounced 
it a genuine Strad beyond a question. It was a Lup6t 
for all that. 

As for your ordinary amateur, he will judge by an 
old-looking label, being unaware that forgers keep 
old battered counterfeit type in stock, or he will note 
the place of the little buttons which fasten the inner 
blocks, supposing that each maker had his favourite 
position for these buttons from which he never deviated. 
Others will prate about Strad's wasp sting purfle 
running counter to the angle of his corners, or declare 
that one maker never made his back in two pieces, 
whilst another never made it otherwise. 

But there is one mark occasionally found in old 
Italian violins which I do not remember to have seen 
forged or imitated, or indeed even so much as alluded 
to by any writer. 

If the amateur happens to have an instrument with 
a little round hole in the back of his fiddle a few 
inches below the nut, filled up skilfully so as to bo 
almost imperceptible, he may be quite sure he has got 
an old violin, probably one of the oldest, as the prac- 
tice of falling suddenly on the knees and letting the 
violin hang, in processions in which the singers went 
before and the minstrels followed after, has long been 

That little hole, so cunningly plugged, shows the 
place where a slight chain connected the instrument to 
a button-screw or hook, so that at the elevation of the 
Host, the minstrel might suddenly fall on his knees 


without the fear of dropping his fiddle. I have an old 
Andrew Guarnerius so plugged, and the violinist Oury 
first pointed this out to me and explained the reason of 
the plugged hole ! 

Scores have sent me descriptions of their fiddles, and 
expected me to pronounce on the genuineness of them, 
or are sure that they own a real Strad or Amati, be- 
cause theirs (in their opinion) exactly corresponds to 
my description of Strad or Amati in "Music and 
Morals." All this shows that the outside public have 
not the faintest inkling of true violin lore. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes felt this when he wrote to 
me in 1885. 

He had himself written very charmingly on the 
violin, and the passage is quoted with approval even 
by so redoubtable a critic as Mr George Hart in his 
admirable book " The Violin " (1887). 

Oliver Wendell Holmes had the acuteness to see 
that all mere picturesque writing was valueless from a 
technical point of view, and he thus expresses himself 
to me in a letter dated December 5, 1885 : 

"I never knew until I read what you say of the 
instrument what profanation I had been guilty of to 
touch one, much more to write about it ! " and he was 
kind enough to add: "You have given a life to the 
fiddle such as nothing but its own music ever gave it 
before ! " words which, coming so spontaneously from 
the author of the "Autocrat of the Breakfast-table," 
I think I may be allowed to quote with pardonable 


There is a point interesting alike to collectors, 
amateurs, dealers, and players, which I feel somewhat 
strongly about in view of much recent, and, as it seems 
to me, ignorantly conducted controversy. 

It is whether, as far as tone and sensibility are con- 
cerned, the best modern fiddles are not quite as good 
as the best old ones. We hear repeatedly stories of 
Strads and Josephs being played side by side with 
modern fiddles, whilst the best judges have failed to 
detect the superiority of the old over the new. This 
test is most unsatisfactory. The ear is as easily con- 
fused as the palate. It is currently reported that if 
you taste alternately port wine, cream, and sherry, you 
will not, after a few sips with your eyes shut, be able to 
tell the difference ; but no one argues from this that there 
is no difference. The ear is not only easily confused 
about the quality, but even about the direction of sound. 

Let one man shut his eyes and another snap his 
fingers on the right, left, and above the other's head 
several times running, and this one shall be utterly 
unable to tell after a few turns where the fingers are 
being snapped. No one is a real judge of the distance 
from which a sound comes. If, then, we can be easily 
puzzled when plied with such tests about the direction 
and the distance, no wonder if tests expressly designed 
to confuse us about timbre should be equally successful. 
But the question is practically settled by soloists in- 
variably preferring a fine old fiddle to a fine new one, 
not as connoisseurs, but as players, and there must be a 
reason for this, 


Therefore, I will hear of no talk, even from the lips 
of a Charles Keade, about the varnish, the finish, the 
artistic beauty in form or colour of the old violins 
being largely responsible for this avowed preference. 
It is tonal power quality, sensibility, volume, timbre 
a something personal, as it were, to the old fiddles, 
which points to certain real qualities in their makers 
which have not since been rivalled, and this is quite 
apart from the item of age. 

Age will make a good fiddle better, but it won't 
make a bad fiddle good ; it may also be possible to 
prematurely age a new fiddle, not with heat or acids, 
but quite legitimately, by incessantly and for long 
periods of time grinding it through every semitone 
of its compass, and well-made modern fiddles will 
doubtless improve every year, like good wine, up to 
a certain point. They will then probably deteriorate. 
But the age at which the old Cremonas are bound to 
deteriorate has happily not yet been reached. 

The root of the matter lies here. 

A listener behind the door may not know the differ- 
ence between a Strad or Joseph or some other, but the 
player does. A spectator in the Park may see no great 
difference between the pet horse ridden by the lady 
and the even more handsome quadruped upon which 
her groom follows ; but she knows. So the hunter knows 
his horse, and values him above another horse which 
looks better ; the beast he rides will answer to his will, 
go anywhere with him, and rise to every occasion. 

This is what your Strad fiddle does. 


All violinists will tell you that there is a reserve of 
force about a Strad ; you can " pull out," and you will 
never be disappointed. 

All lovers of Amati will tell you that they find in 
Nicolo a trembling sighing sensitiveness, a tenderness, 
and a tone delicate to the point of vanishing, which 
endears Amati to the women, and still leaves his finest 
instruments unapproachable for cabinet-playing. 

And all players will tell you that for domination 
and downright big-battalion power, Joseph Guarnerius 
del Gesil has not his equal. 

And the reason for this real, not fancied, supremacy 
of the great makers and their best pupils ? 

The reason is complex, no doubt so complex that, 
when all precautions have been taken to imitate wood, 
proportions, varnish, workmanship, so as thoroughly to 
deceive the eye, the modern chef-d'ceuvre is, in spite of 
puzzled auditors, still not identical in quality with the 
old Cremona gems. 

I was called the other day to judge a set of English 
bells, cast with the same proportions of tin and copper, 
of exactly the same size, weight, and model as a suite 
of Belgian bells cast by Severin Van Aerschodt; but 
the sound ? 

Ye gods ! No silver clang and tin -kettle parody 
could be further apart than were those English and 
Belgian bells. 

But to return to our fiddles. The reasons of Cre- 
mona supremacy remain to be tackled. 

I hazard the following points : 


1st. Selection of wood. No doubt the old Lombardian 
forests, with their salt-impregnated roots, provided rare 
planks. The vaunted American woods fail technically 
to satisfy the Cremona requirements. 

2nd. The knowledge, at first empirical, then intui- 
tive, born of a lifelong study of the relative density of 
woods fitted to vibrate together. Nothing can teach 
this, no rule or measurements; for every plank varies 
in porousness, density of fibre, age, and seasoning. 

Charles Reade was napping when he expressed a 
hope that a certain Stradivari back, mated with a new 
belly, might some day be united to some Stradivari back 
of which he knew ; but unless it happened to be the belly 
Strad had selected for that particular back, what reason 
is there to suppose that the result would be satisfactory ? 

3rd. I am of opinion that the old method of care- 
ful oil-sizing and the subsequent application of gum 
materially affected the tone. 

Think for a moment only of what is implied in the 
saturation too much or too little of the wood with 
oils, spirit, gum of this or that quality. 

Necessarily some vibratory capacities must be affected 
for better, for worse by the filling in, one way or 
another, of the wood pores ; and do not the commonest 
of modern artificers admit that the Cremona varnish, 
and the exact mode of its application, is as yet undis- 
covered ; and when they speak otherwise, do they not 
laugh in their sleeves ? 

4:th. Admit that the proportions are exactly equal, 
the column of air almost identical in cubic measure, 


about 512 to the second; still remains the vibratory 
qualities of infinite varieties of grain coarse or close, 
loose or serried in wood fibre acting upon that air 

The old makers varied their models, but, no doubt, 
had regard to the thicknesses and the subtle relations 
between the hard and soft woods which would produce 
the power or quickness of reply, or sweetness, or pene- 
tratingness aimed at. 

It may be that the secret for the production of these 
is quite incommunicable, just as a painter, an actor, a 
singer, a sculptor will do a thing before you, which you 
cannot do, which he cannot teach you how to do, though 
he place his brush, his chisel, his music, his toga and 
footlights at your disposal. 

5th. We have no time for failures ; they had. End- 
less experiment, endless comparison, observation, medi- 
tation, unlimited leisure : one and the same man made 
each part, and knew the interpenetrative qualities and 
the mutual adaptation of the sundry parts. 

We now have subdivision of labour ; each man makes 
one of the parts, and some one else puts them together. 
How can such backs accord with such bellies ? How 
can such ribs cotton with such strange and fortuitous 
planks ? Truly a scratch company brought together like 
strangers, yet expected to accept their arbitrary assort- 
ment, and make sweet harmony together. But they 
were not fastened together, in view of one another, 
by one and the same master-mind, who knew what 
was good for them, and what they were good for ! 


6th. But given the possibility of favourable con- 
ditions time, absorption, infinite experience, and all 
the accumulated knowledge of the past and given a 
modern Nicolo, Strad, Joseph, or even Bergonzi, and 
given climate, and given wood galore, and might not 
we expect Cremona results ? 

Why, yes, with Cremona conditions, certainly, or at 
least a very fair approximation; and I am far from 
saying that we are not on the road to it. 

Until lately it has not been worth while for makers 
like the Hills, the Gands, or the Chanot firms to do 
aught seriously but repair or parody closely for the eye 
the old fiddles. 

But such of Vuillaurne's fiddles as have not been aged 
with heat and acids, and the fine 10 to 30 violins 
now being made conscientiously by Messrs Hill, in pro- 
portion as old fiddles become rare and inaccessible, must 
come to the fore. Anyhow, players will, it is hoped, 
give up the idiotic folly of paying large sums for 
indifferent old fiddles, even with respectable names, 
when they can get really fine new ones for half the 
money with twice the tone a good tone, too, which 
a very few years will suffice to mellow. 

We write these words in the interest of dealers, 
collectors, players, and artificers alike indeed, it 
would be well worth while for collectors even now to 
get hold of the finest attainable specimens of new 
work. As a mere speculation it would be at least as 
sound an investment as laying down good vintages of 
port or sherry. 


A good Hill recently made, price 30 or 40, e.g. 
the fine copy of the Tuscan Strad, only requires age 
to mellow it into a price of three figures. 

These new and garish-looking instruments, which, 
after all, do not look more gaudy than the Messie 
Strad, are exceedingly loud in tone, and withal very 

A certain tartness of timbre merely calls aloud for 
another ten or twenty years to soften and refine it 
into the Cremona tone. 

Meanwhile, the aspirants to Cremona excellence are 
entertainingly numerous. From time to time I get 
letters accompanied with samples from people who 
claim to have discovered the secret of the Cremona 

Here and there some enterprising maker will get 
a literary friend to extol him as the successor of 

I came across a pamphlet the other day assigning 
Cremona rank to a worthy musician who makes fiddles 
en amateur, and a certain German working in America, 
whose violins present all the usual characteristics of 
instruments made in Germany. I actually got half 
through this remarkable document, written au grand 
serieux, before I discovered that it belonged to the 
liver pill, patent syrup, and soap class. 

Rumours may reach you from America of the won- 
derful Calif ornian wood. Well, European experts tell 
me that, fine as is the marking, it does not yield the 
required timbre, and that the planks now coming over 


from the old forests of Herzgovina and Bosnia are 
far superior for fiddle-making purposes. 

Then think of the care and study in selection made 
by those old Italian artificers who frequented the 
Brescian and Cremonese markets, and haggled over 
special bits of timber. They knew exactly where it 
came from the peculiarities of the soil, iron or salt 
impregnated from whence it came; whether it was 
cut as it should be, in autumn, with the sap out of 
it, and exactly how long it had been cut, and to 
what conditions it had been exposed before it came 
to be worked up. The subtleties were endless. Who 
troubles their heads about such things now ? 

No ! The fact about modern fiddles you, my 
anxious inquirer, may take it for granted is what I 
have stated. Take good new fiddles by Hill, Chan6t, 
Bernardel, Gand, and, according to the time and in- 
dividual or one-man power and skill spent upon them, 
they will rank high, and higher by-and-by; and if 
ever the genius and the conditions which obtained at 
Cremona, anno 1700, are again found, then, and not 
till then, will the peers and rivals of the Cremona 
masterpieces be seen and heard and paid tor, 

It may be rash to attempt a scale of prices, when 
the experience of tbfc last fifty y&rs proves that we 
have to deal wicn a sliding scale. Forty years ago 
my father bought a rather small Andrea Guarnerius 
at Puttick & Simpson's for 4, which could not now 
be picked up under 20. No Cremona from 1660 
to 1760 ca.n be got for much less, though many 


better fiddles can be got for half that price. Of 
course the rise in the Strads is quite phenomenal. 
Stainer, on the other hand, is not valued as highly 
by comparison as he was last century ; whilst, owing 
to the rarity of real Stainers, the demand for Klotz 
and Albani, more easily attainable, has somewhat 
increased, and generally all the second and third 
class makers are being hunted up and command good 
figures now, just as a man who can't get Charles II. 
silver will put up with William and Mary, Queen 
Anne, and even the early Georges. 

It is quite safe to buy Urquhart, Ford, Banks, 
Forster, Furber (Henry, David, or John), and Pam- 
philion ; but the once popular " Duke " days are pretty 
well over. 

Lupot should be always secured, and Vuillaumes 
that have not been cooked with acids and heat ; and 
no collector will go far wrong with Pique. 

Venetian fiddles, and especially violoncellos, near 
akin to Cremona, will be sure to rise ; and, as a rule, 
the Northern fiddles will command a better figure 
than the Southerners Eome and Naples. 

But all such hints are general, and must be taken 
for what they are worth, for stray specimens will often 
turn up belonging to almost any school, which will 
have rare merits and can hardly be accounted for by 
any systematic classification. 

The following up-to-date (1898) scale of prices may 
be a useful but rough guide to the collector with money 
that burns his pocket : 




Stradivari 2000 to 200 

Joseph Guarnerius , . 1000 100 

Other Guarnerii .... 

300 , 

, 30 . 

Nicolo Amati, and the brothers | 
Anthony, and Gerome ) 

500 , 

, 80 or 50 








J. B. Vuillaurae .... 



Lupot ..... 






Forster ('cellos) . . . . 








There are two general rules, which, like all rules, may 
have some exceptions not many : 

I. Never buy a fiddle simply at the owner's valua- 
tion ; judge it by your own knowledge if you have any, 
or that of an expert if you have none. 

II. If you buy at auction, always go a few pounds 
better than the highest bid offered by a dealer, and if 
you win, you will be in luck. 

III. Before sending a valuable violin to be "done 
up," select your repairer carefully. A fiddle maker is 
not necessarily a fiddle restorer, and may be quite 
ignorant of the traditions which should regulate this 
branch of the luthier's art. 

IV. Get your violin's pedigree as far as you can in 
detail, with names and dates. Had this been always 
done, exhibitions would have been spared many a delu- 
sion and collectors many a fraud. 


PLATE I (to face page 1$) 

ADuiffoprugcar viol da Gamba, owned by Mr George Donaldson. 
This matchless antique is doubtless one of many, but most of the rest 
have perished ; it stands almost alone as a poetic specimen of the 
phantasy of the old viol makers. It is elaborately decorated on the 
back, after the taste of the period, with an excess of ornament, which 
the fine instinct of the subsequent makers of violins rejected as preju- 
dicial to tone. The habit of adopting a creature's head, or a face, 
for a scroll long lingered, and is not unknown in the work of Stradi- 
varius. In England numerous copies of Duke that have been palmed 
off as original have lion heads. These instruments were usually 
*' made in Germany," and it appears to have been a favourite practice 
there to use such carved scrolls. 

PLATE II (to face page 38) 

A Maggini violin (the " De Beriot ") owned by Mr Antonietti. 
The Maggini here given is an admirably preserved specimen of the 
great Brescian master, who, next to Stradiuarius, did more than any 
one man to inspire and define the ideal shape, from which even the 
Amati at first departed, but which Strad had the genius to restore 
and perfect The corners, however, have been rubbed, and not in 
every case renewed, otherwise it is in as perfect a condition as can 
be expected in so old a fiddle. The scroll is cut with a care and an 
advanced finish which reminds us of the bolder Strad period, 1 700-30. 
Maggini, oddly enough, was little honoured in the first quarter of this 
century, but De Beriot had the insight to discern his merits ; and 
from the time he adopted him for his masterly and full-toned perfor- 
mances, the Magginis rose, and have been continuing to rise, in public 



PLATE III (to face page 50) 

Her late Majesty's Amati tenor is in beautiful condition ; it is 
elaborately ornamented, in lieu of the usual purfling. It was, doubt- 
less, originally made to order for some great prelate ; and it bears on 
its back a noble coat of arms hardly decipherable, and the image of 
John Baptist carrying a lamb (" Behold the Lamb of God ! " John 
i. 36). The instrument was used in Her late Majesty's private band 
by Mr Hann (1898). Like many old viols it has been somewhat 
reduced in size. For the loan of this instrument I am indebted to 
the good offices of Sir Walter Parratt, director of the late Queen's 
private band. 

PLATE IV (to face page 58) 

Paganini's Joseph Guarnerius. This is a fine and very character- 
istic specimen of the mighty Del Gesu. It is in his most powerful 
and massive style (the head almost brutal in its bull-dog strength), 
with full rich colour thickly laid on to match. Seldom, indeed, do we 
find so much varnish left on the back of so old a violin. The instru- 
ment has been very carefully dealt with. The story of how it passed 
into Paganini's hands is well known. An Italian amateur, who evi- 
dently knew its value, lent it to the great maestro; and, after hearing 
its marvellous qualities, as drawn forth by the Magician of the Violin, 
declared that no other hand should henceforth set its chords in 
vibration. Paganini left it to his native town of Genoa, and there it 
may still be seen in the Town Hall. It was his favourite instrument ; 
and the giant Joseph Guarnerius was well matched with the giant 
Nicolo Paganini. 

PLATE V (to face page 66) 

The Rode and Spanish violins and the Spanish tenor, it will be 
observed, are all inlaid. Strad was no bigot, and although we may 
confidently assert that he disapproved of all inlaying or decoration on 
the bellies or backs, and confined it to its narrowest limits when 
resorted to in lieu of the usual strip of purfling, he probably judged 
that if it did not encroach upon the vibratory surfaces much beyond 
a common purfle, it was comparatively harmless. It is likely that the 
Rode Strad, whose history I am unable to record,was madefor Royalty 
or some great Prince Cardinal of the Church, the extra decoration 
being considered due to the high rank of the patron, or wrought in 
obedience to a special request. We have many evidences that Strad 


was not above pleasing the individual whims of his clients. He 
was himself an expert carver, and could inlay with the best of 
them when he chose. The Rode Strad was sold to Messrs Hill by 
M. Lamoureux, the eminent French conductor, and by them to 
Dr Oldham of Brighton. The Strad 'cello is a good specimen of 
Strad's improved bass model. The size is brought down character- 
istically, and the comparative smallness of the upper, contrasting 
with the ample development of the lower part, gives the instru- 
ment an appearance of lightness and grace ; whilst the delicate 
and somewhat narrow head, with its sufficiently massive and finely 
cut out scroll, admirably balances the whole to the eye with a 
certain * chic " quite a la Strad. 

PLATE VI (to face page 68) 

This plate contains profiles of the three Strads shown in Plate V., 
and is interesting as displaying the variety exhibited in Strad's 
scroll carving. The Spanish Strad has quite an Arnatise' scroll, 
long, light, and very restrained, and undeveloped at the lower 
extremity. Notice the greater freedom of the Rode scroll, quite in 
Strad's best manner. The Rode model is also flatter in the back, but 
the bellies are ah 1 flat in the approved style, after the earlier Amati 
groove had almost entirely disappeared from the Cremona model. 

PLATE VII (to face page M) 

A Panoramic View of Cremona, taken outside Porto Po from 
the banks of the river, and engraved about 1830 by Caporali. 
Names of buildings, counting from the right of the print : 1. Church 
of S. Pietro ; 2. Tower of the old prisons near the Town Hall ; 
3. Battisterio; 4. Cathedral; 5. Town Hall Tower; 6. Torrazzo, 
the Cathedral Tower, the highest in Italy; 7. Church of S. 
Marcellino ; 8. Church of S. Domenico ; 9. Church of S. Agostino ; 
10. Church of S. Lucca; 11. Church of S. Omobono, patron of the 
town ; 12. Church of S. Agata ; 13. Church of S. Ilario ; 14. 
Church of S. Luca. Signer Sacchi, a native of Cremona, has 
kindly identified all the above for me. 

PLATES VIII AMD IX (to face pages 106, 110) 

These portraits of Tourte, Lupot, Vuillaume, and Ebswortb Hill 
being fully dwelt on in the text, need no further comment. 



PLATE X (to foot pay* 162) 

This plate of backs, bellies, and bows, has been fully explained 
in the text 

PLATE XI (to fate page 182) 

Portraits of Paganini abound. Landseer sketched a series, 
which, however, are slightly of the nature of caricatures. It was 
difficult to do otherwise. The Maestro's features were so marked, 
his long hair so weird, the tall forehead, the wide sensitive mouth, 
the dark eyes, the ungainly and gaunt, almost dislocated attitudes 
of the man lent themselves freely to a lively and not always 
sympathetic or respectful pencil. The portrait, a rare one, here 
produced, hits the happy mean. The finest representation of him 
is, however, Danton's small bust (admirably reproduced by Mrs 
Haweis' pencil in "My Musical Life," where see my biographical 
study of Paganini). 

PLATE XII (to face page 238) 

Fora fuller list of labels, the "Collector" had better consult 
Mr Vidal's most valuable book referred to in our Bibliography, 
from which our seven specimens are reproduced. I may observe 
that a forged fiddle may often have what purports to be a genuine 
label. A reference, therefore, to these facsimiles may be useful. 

Buyers should also beware of labels bearing dates posterior to 
the death of the alleged makers. I have seen Stainer's so 
decorated. Stainer labels in two different sorts of type, i.e., the 
name in a running type and the rest in print, are never genuine. 
Duke copies of Stainer, often very good ones, sometimes present 
this peculiarity. Notice that Gasparo and Gio Paolo Maggini never 
dated their instruments. There exist numerous dated copies of 
Maggini generally recent copies De Beriot having brought the 
great Gio into notice. These are all frauds. 

Stradiuarius changed his labels late in life, using a v instead of u, 
and spelling Stradivari or Stradivarius. This is called the cursive v. 
Some Stradivarius-labelled violins have all the figures of the date 
printed, e.g., 1712. These are forgeries. The last two figures in 
the real labels being always filled up in ink.which has much faded. It 
does not, however, follow that all thus filled in are genuine indeed, 
most are frauds. A particularly favourite date for forged Stradivari 
labels is 1721. 


ALBANI, 102 

Aldric, Paris dealer, 174 

Aireton, 124 

Amateurs, their opinions, 225 

Araati, the, 43, 44, 47 

Americans, their wood, 233 

Artot's Strad, 75 

BALZAR, great violinist, 122 
Band, Charles II. 's, 121 
Banks, English maker, 130 
Barak Norman, English maker, 

Bernadel, French maker, 109, 


Betts, English maker, 133 
Bisexual violin nature, 22 
Boquay, French maker, 105 
Bows, see Chap. XI. 
Buying fiddles, 235 

CARLO Bergonzi, 83; supremacy, 

230; gems, 173; influence, 

Charles II.'s court, influence on 

music, 121 

Charles Reade, 180, 217 
Children, their fiddles, 68 
Collecting mania, 12 
Completeness of violin, 7 
Control of violin, 9 
Convalescent fiddles, 200 
Cracked fiddles, 198 
Cremona city, 42 
Cremona gems, discovery of, 


Cremona influence, 94 
Cross, English maker, 125 


DEALERS, see Chap. XV. 
Dodd, bow-maker, 133, 166 
* Dolphin," a celebrated Strad, 

Duiffoprugcar, old maker, 12 ; 

his viol da Gamba, 19 
Duke, English maker, 132 

ELECTOR fiddles by Stainer, 97 
English makers, see Chap. VIII. 

" FALSE " strings, 156 

Fendt, Bernard, 132 

Fiddles and umbrellas, 214 

Fiddle flukes, 220 

Fiddle frauds, 223 

Fiddle judges, 224 

Fiddles, new and old, secret of, 

227, 233 

Fingerboard, 207 
" Finish " of old makers, 26 
Foster, the family of, 126-127, 


France, violins in, see Chap. VII. 
Francois Tourte, bow-maker, 


^ *~ i 


Gand, French maker, 109, 189 
Gasparo da Salo, 30 
Genesis of violin, see Chap. I. 
German strings, 158 
Germany, fiddle - makers, see 

Chap. VI. 

Geronimo Amati, 44 
Gillott's Mr, collection, 217 
Giuseppe or Joseph Guarnerius, 




Goding's, Mr, collection, 178 
Golden Strad period, 73 
Guadagnini, 86 
Guarneri family, 51 
Guild of Markncukirchen, 194- 

HAHT, John, dealer, 180' 
Hill, William Ebsworth, 133 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 226 
Horses, fiddles and umbrellas, 

IGNORANCE and neglect, 215 

JAQUES, French maker, 105 
Jay, English maker, 124 
Jean and Nicolas Medard, 187 
Joseph or Giuseppe Guarnerius, 

KENNEDYS, the English, 1872 

and 1885, 218 ; makers, 124 
Klotz family, 101,191 

LANDOLPHO, Italian, 216 
Lott, John, English, 219 
Luigi Tarisio, rediscoverer of 

Cremonas, 179, 181 ; see Chap 

Lupot, French maker, 106 168- 


MAGGINI, early Brescian maker, 

Mantegazza, Venetian maker, 

Manufacture of strings process, 

Markneukirchen, early home of 

violin manufacture, 186, 193 
" Master " Reiter, Mittenwald 

maker, 192 

Maucotel, French, 188 
Medard, early Tyrol maker, 187; 

see Chap. XIII. 
Menegand, French, 188 
" Messie," a great Strad violin, 

Mirecourt, early home of violin 

manufacture, 189 

Mittenwald violin manufacture, 

Montagnana, Venetian maker, 

Mutes or sordini to deaden 

sounds, 159 

NEGLECT of English makers, 


Neglect of violins, 215 
New fiddles, 227, 233 
Nicolas Lupot, see Lupot. 
Nicolo Amati, the best of the 

family, 47 
Norman, see Barak Norman. 


letter, 226 

Ouri, the violinist, 170 
Over-restoration, 203 

PADUAN strings, 158 
Paganini, 9-56, 182 
Pamphilon, English maker, 124 
Panormo, maker of guitars and 

nddli-s, 124 
Paris, VuSMaume and Tarisio 

at, 176-178 

Parker, English maker, 124 
Peccate, Italian maker, 169 
Pernambuco wood for bows, 161 
Personal fascination in violin- 
playing, secret of it, 11 
Pieray, 105 

Pique, French maker, 108 
Prelude and postlude, 7, 237 
" Pucelle," a celebrated Strad, 

READE, see Charles Reade. 
Reiter, nee " Master." 
Remenyi, violinist, 170, 221 
Restoration, 203 
Revarder, Mirecourt maker, 188 
Rosin, treatment and use of, 202 
Rugerius, Italian maker, 50 

SALO, early violin centre, 30 
Savart's experiments, 25 
Scale of prices, 236 
I Secret or old violins, 228 



Sound qualities of old and new 

violins, 227 
South Kensington Collections, 

see Kensington. 
Stainer, see Chap. VI. 
Stainer, Miss, "Violin Manual," 


Stradivarius, see Chap. V. 
Strange finds, 77 
String gauge, 154 
Strings, violin, see Chap. X. 
Story of the Markneukirchen 

Guild, 194-197 
Subdivision of labour a cause of 

decline, 231 

TARISIO, see Luigi, 179, and 

Chap. XIV. 

Techier, German school, 102 
Thibouville - Lamy, French 

maker, 189 
Tourte, bow-maker, 164 

Treatment of violin, see Chap. 


Tubbs, bow-maker, 169 
' Tuscan, ' the celebrated Strad, 


URQUHART, English maker, 124 

VARNISH, see Chap. IX. 
Violin constitution, see Chap. 

Violin dealing and collecting, 

see Chap. XV. 
Violin progress, see Chap. I. 
Violin rise, see Chap. I. 
Violin treatment, sea Chap. XIV. 
Viols, see Chap. I.; English, 119 
Vision of Stradivari, 79 
Vuillaume, 110, 168 

WALMESLEY, English maker. 




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FACTS ABOUT FIDDLES. Violins, Old and New. By 

J. BROADHOUSE. Fourth Edition. Crown 8vo, sewed, 9d. 

Makers of Bow Instruments, also for String Manufacturers. Taken 
from Personal Experiences, Studies and Observations. By WILLIAM 
HEPWOHTH. Illustrations of Stainer and Guarnerius Violins and Gauge 
of Millimetres and Centimetres, eto. Crown 8vo, cloth, 3s. 6d. 
CONTBNTS : The Pegs Neck Finger-beard Bridge Tail-piece Saddle 
Violin Holder Tail pin Bar Sound-post On the Stringing of Sow Instru- 
ments in General Use Strings Rosin Cleaning of the Instrument and the 
Bridge Boic Violin Case Repairs Preservation Conclusion. 

brated Violin Maker known by the name of Stradivarius, preceded by 
Historical and Critical Researches on the Origin and Transformations 
of Bow Instruments, and followed by a Theoretical Analysis of the 
Bow and Remarks on Francis Tourto. By F. J. FETIS. Translated by 
J. BISHOP. Facsimile of a Letter of Stradivarius. 8vo, cloth, 5s. 6d. 



Including Violoncello. 

THE HISTORY OF THE VIOLIN and other Instru- 
ments Played cm with the Bow from the Remotest Times to the Pre- 
sent. Also an Account of the Principal Makers. Coloured Frontispiece 
and numeious Illustrations and Cuti. By W. SANDYS, F.S.A., aud S. A. 
FOESTER. Thick 8vo, cloth, 10s. 6d. (published at 14s.). 

TION OF THE VIOLIN aud all other Bow Instruments. Together with 
an Account of the most Celebrated Makers and of the Genuine Charac- 
teristics of their Instruments. By J. A. OTTO, with Additions by J. 
BISHOP. With Diagrams and Plates. Fourth Edition, further En- 
larged. Crown 8vo, cloth, 4s. 

HOW TO PLAY THE FIDDLE. For Beginners. By 
H. W. and G. GRESSWELL. Eighth Edition. Crown 8vo, pnper, 2 vols., 
for 2s., or sold separately. 
JOACHIM says: " Contains many useful hints." 

Origin. By DR. E. SCHEBEC. Translated by W. E. LARSON. Second 
Edition. Square 12mo, cloth, 2s. 6d. (paper, Is. 6d.). 

ing 1 Performers on the Violoncello and Double Bass, Past and Present. 
Containing a Sketch of their Artistic Career, together with Notes of 
their Compositions. Bv A. MASON CLARKE. Portraits. Poet 8vo, bev- 
elled cloth, 5s. 6d. 

HOW TO REPAIR VIOLINS and other Musical Instru- 
ments. By ALFRED F. COMMON. With Diagrams. Crown 8vo, cloth, 3s. 



Illustrated and Described from all Sources. With a List of Tyrolcse and 
Italian Makers. With 29 Illustrations and Folding Examples of the 
First Music issued for the Lute, Viol and Voice. From the German of 
Historical and Biographical Account of the Violin. By A. MASON CLABKE. 
With Facsimiles of Labels used by Old Masters and illustrations of a 
copy of a Gasparo da Salo. Crown 8vo, cloth, 3s. 'paper, Is. 6d.). 

HOW TO MAKE A VIOLIN. Practically Treated. By 
J. BBOADHOUSE. New and Revised Edition. With 47 Illustrations and 
Folding Plates and many Diagrams, Figures, etc. Crown 8vo, cloth, 5s. 
(paper, 4s.). 


PIANISTS. Biographical and Anecdotal, with Account of the Violin 
and Early Violinists. Viotti, Spohr, Pag-anini, De Beriot, Ole Bull, 
dementi, Moscheles, Schumann (Robert and Clara), Chopin, Thalberg. 
Gottschalk, Liszt. By G. T. FEHRIS. Second Edition. Crown 8vo, 
cloth, 4s. 6d. 


EXEMPLIFIED BY OLE BULL. His Pose and Method Proved to be 
Based on True Anatomical Principles. By A. B. CROSBY, M.D., Pro- 
fessor of Anatomy. Portrait, Diagrams and Illustratioos. 8vo, cloth, 
3s. (paper, Is. (jd.)- 


With Illustrations. Tenth Edition. Cloth, 3s. (paper, Is. Gd.)- 

A MUSICAL ZOO. Twenty-four Illustrations displaying 
the Ornamental Application of Animal Forms to Musical Instruments 
(Violins, Viol da Gainbas, Guitars, Pochette, Serpent, etc.). Drawn 
from the Carved Examples by HENKT SAINT-GEORGE. 2s. (or cloth, 
3s. 6d.). 





ML Haweis, Hugh Reginald 
802 Old violins and 

H35 violin lore